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Toronto police to expand neighbourhood officer program to combat shootings

The rise in the number of shootings in the city has alarmed the police enough to expand an existing neighbourhood officer program in a crime reducing effort. Another aim is to build much-needed trust.

This latest expansion is to roll out in phases over the course of a year and will more than double the number of community officers on city streets.

Yuen said in total, about 120 officers will be deployed to 27 neighbourhoods. The first phase of deployments begins on Monday, when 40 officers will be placed in eight neighbourhoods across the city.

All through until October 2019, police officers will be stationed in all these neighborhoods bringing the total number of neighbourhood officers to about 220 situated in a total of 60 neighbourhoods. He said it’s a four-year assignment for the officers, which he said will give them time to build relationships with the public.

While critics continue to insist that these efforts will either be in vain or worse, counter-productive as it will alienate the community further from the police. The police believe that this will help the community and the police interact and build trust.

The expansion boosts an existing program that has been running since 2013 and currently has 96 officers in 33 neighbourhoods.

A report that was presented at a Toronto police board meeting on Friday said the early focus of the program was “to increase police presence and address community problems … within particular neighbourhoods and improve relationships between community members and the police.

The report said that through the program, officers conduct regular patrols of the community and engage in “intelligence-gathering.” The report also said the program’s expansion will cost about $16 million each year.

These neighbourhood officers will be on call 24-7.

This year alone, Toronto has seen 40 fatal shootings, and that number is certain to rise before the year’s end.

Officers will also be “engaging” with the communities to identify members of the public who suffer from mental illnesses.

Over the last few months, residents in the 27 newly selected neighbourhoods were consulted, besides there were consultations with local politicians, business improvement agencies, churches and other organizations.

Neighbourhoods where officers will be stationed were chosen based on statistics that looked at a range of factors including crime index, level of unemployment, level of income, family status, level of education, and “fear of violence,” according to the police report. -CINEWS

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