Toronto·Video

New community policing program hopes to bridge gap between residents, officers

Amid an effort to combat the recent rise in gun violence in Toronto, police are launching a new community program that will roll out in four neighbourhoods this fall.

Police initiative focuses on issues like impartial policing, gang intervention

Dwight Drummond speaks to Toronto police's deputy chief

3 years ago
4:43
Toronto police's Deputy Chief Peter Yuen on developing new neighbourhood policing initiative. 4:43

Amid an effort to combat the recent rise in gun violence in Toronto, police are launching a new community program that will roll out in four neighbourhoods this fall.

Tasked with implementing the neighbourhood policing initiative, Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen says the program will focus on issues like impartial policing, gang intervention and dealing with individuals with mental health issues. 

Yuen says he's also going to look at neighbourhood demographics and will bring in officers who look like members of community and can speak the language of residents.

They're all steps the police force is making to do better, he says. 

"One of the goals for the Toronto Police Service moving forward is to connect and make the community safe and build partnership," Yuen told CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond.

"We are going to make the right investment. It's not going to happen overnight." 

Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen has been tasked with implementing a new neighbourhood policing initiative that will begin rolling out this fall. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

The program faces the uphill battle of developing trust between police and the community where it may have already eroded.

But some area residents have already shown support for the program. One woman who spoke to CBC Toronto in the Victoria Park Avenue and Finch Avenue East area says she believes it will help with deterring crime in the neighbourhood.

The support is something Yuen says he recognizes.

"[Community members] say, 'We welcome you here, we want police officers, but not to come here to marginalize our young people ... We want you here to come as a human being and be part of this community,'" he said.

Building stronger community connections

Part of what will make Yuen's program different is that police will be listening to residents, something he says police haven't exactly done before.

"In 2013, we never consulted the public," he said. "This is what the public [doesn't] like the police doing."

The new community policing program will focus on issues like impartial policing, gang intervention and dealing with individuals with mental health issues. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)
The deputy police chief says he has personally been to a number of community meetings across the city and plans to continue to do so as the program continues expands. 

He also has a personal connection to some of the city's communities where relations between police and citizens have been historically tense and says officers will now think differently when it comes to interacting with young people.

"They are going to understand there is only one restaurant fast-food outlet in the mall south of here and I know from, because I know from 1987 that's where the kids congregate," he said. 

"They have nowhere to go. They're not bad kids. For the officers to walk in and automatically assume they're criminals, they're up to no good, that is a mindset we cannot have this mindset in 2018 and moving forward."

Neighbourhood policing programs have seen success internationally, as far as the U.K., he says, and Yuen is hoping that success will translate here at home.

"All you have to look is across the border, a 10-hour drive to New York City," he said. "In the 15 years of the neighbourhood program being introduced in New York City, everything — major crime indicators, homicides, incarceration of young people — has decreased dramatically."

With files from Dwight Drummond

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