Issues for Discussion: Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners and the Caucus Committee on Reduction of Crime

The representatives of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners, along with representatives of the Saskatoon Police Service are pleased to meet with members of the Caucus Committee on Reduction of Crime and to put forward the following messages:

  1. In Saskatoon, the level of strategic co-operation between groups dealing with crime related issues has improved immeasurably over the past decade.
  2. The provincial government has a vital role to play in these local initiatives.
  3. The money to deal with crime is going to be spent. Let’s focus on the front end of the process.

 

  1. In Saskatoon, the level of strategic co-operation between groups dealing with crime related issues has improved immeasurably over the past decade.

There are numerous examples in Saskatoon where strategic and co-operative effort between often diverse groups is making a real and tangible difference.

As the first example, the Action Accord was launched in 2010 by the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Saskatoon Health Region, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and Saskatoon Police Service. All five founders remain partners today. The mandate of the Action Accord has been deliberately narrow, focusing on the expansion of stabilization facilities and services as well as the establishment of an integrated wellness centre in Saskatoon. Significant progress has been achieved in executing on this mandate because the Action Accord acts and speaks as a co-ordinated group.

Similarly, the City Centre Street Issues Group was formed to deal with a relatively small number of people who continually create challenges to the public’s sense of community safety on city centre streets. The service providers who deal with these issues, day in and day out, asked the question “can we be more effective if we integrate our efforts?” Their answer was “yes, we can”. The Saskatoon Police Service Central Division, the Community Support Officers, the Lighthouse and the Brief Detox Unit now hold weekly updates to deal with new and arising street issues, they share (within the limits of privacy regulations) information on individuals with whom they interact, and have taken almost a dozen small, but very concrete, steps to better co-ordinate their efforts. And all of this has taken place in only nine months.

A third example is the community-wide strategy to deal with homelessness. The initiative was originally spearheaded by two groups, namely the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership and the United Way, but it actually enveloped at least a dozen other organizations. The result was a community plan, developed and adopted by a cross-section of groups that likely would have, at one point in history, taken steps individually, but today move in concert. As a result, the entire process is more effective.

A fourth example is the Saskatoon Cold Weather Strategy where local groups made the commitment that below certain temperatures, rules about accommodation could be bent in the interests of ensuring no one was without shelter in those circumstances. The cost of establishing this system was virtually zero.

In short, there are processes that have already started. The province doesn’t have to invent one. It just needs to be sure it participates fully.

  1. The provincial government has a vital role to play in these local initiatives.

Provincial agencies have unique and valuable roles to play with these existing initiatives. 

By way of example, after the City Centre Street Issues Group had put a number of steps in place, it became apparent that the missing link was access to Saskatchewan Social Services’ resources on a timely basis. When a police officer or Community Support Officer (CSO) was dealing with someone on the street that needed the assistance of Social Services, that officer or CSO had to either call a toll-free line or take a number and wait in line at the Social Services office. The solution was for the Officer or CSO to have immediate access to a designated person at Social Services. This allowed the process of assistance to the client to be expedited and it greatly reduced the amount of time the Officer or CSO was engaged with that case. Although this process improvement took longer than it really should have, it does provide an example of the role of the province in developing solutions that revolve around criminal or quasi-criminal activity.

There are numerous other examples that could be offered where the Province and its agencies provide certain types of services that are a key component in a local strategy. Strong encouragement of provincial resources to a) engage with these local groups to determine what role they could play, and then b) provide these unique resources on a very timely basis. To cite the above example, the addition of a relatively small amount of time from Social Services increased the effectiveness of the five local groups who had already created significant process improvement.

The Province of Saskatchewan can make a difference. And there is room for some improvement, as above, in engaging and then providing the needed resources. 

3. The money to deal with crime is going to be spent. Let’s focus on the front end of the process.

The financial pressures on the provincial government are well understood. But that being said, when dealing with crime and related activity, the money is going to be spent, one way or another. In the absence of sufficient provincial investment in proactive and preventative initiatives, the costs will invariably be the same or more. Many of the costs we are describing will be incurred in the health system and the justice system – and, in the absence of proactive measures, they will typically be in the “highest cost centres” areas such as emergency wards or jails.

The initiatives used as examples in this briefing note have one thing in common – they all focus on dealing with issues before they are elevated or reach acute status.  

Summary:

The Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners urges a provincial government focus on a) sufficient funding of programs that are inherently preventative in nature, and b) a higher level of focus on involvement and contribution to local initiatives. The provincial investment done in this manner is the most efficient route because it is part of a team effort, which in many instances, is already well underway. 

Download a PDF version here.