Saturday, January 1, 2011

TAVIS credited with helping reduce crime rates

TAVIS credited with helping reduce crime rates

TAVIS credited with helping reduce crime rates. Deputy police chief Tony Warr talks to Toronto Community News about crime in 2010 and what the future holds for 2011. Staff Photo/ANDREW PALAMARCHUK
January 1, 2011

If the mayor's election promise of a 100 new police officers is kept, there's no shortage of ideas of where they would be put to use.
"We haven't really got into a discussion with the mayor's office about how and when that would take place, but certainly we'll welcome 100 new officers," deputy police chief Tony Warr said. "We could maybe add to the school resource officers, add to the (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy's) rapid response teams and just generally build up our front-line resources."
The promise comes at an annual cost of about $10 million.
"I'm sure the mayor is going to come through with his promise...but it may not happen tomorrow," Warr said in a year-end interview. "He has to find the money. We'll have to work in ways to bring 100 new officers into the service. They have to be trained...we have to find positions for them."
Warr credits TAVIS with helping bring down crime rates in 2010.
The program was formed in 2006 as a rapid response unit, flooding an area with officers once a serious violent crime had occurred. It has evolved over the years to include the summer neighbourhood initiative, which allows officers to spend time in a crime-ridden area to get to know the residents and gain their trust.
"It also gives the neighbourhood a sense of safety and encourages people in the neighbourhood to make better use of their facilities," Warr said. "If they make better use of them, it doesn't leave any room for the drug dealers and the bad guys."
Warr hopes to bring in another 18-member team to the TAVIS rapid response unit. The unit now has four teams.
Warr also hopes to expand the school resource officer program. "That's been a very worthwhile program where we have in some high schools an officer assigned full time while the school is operational," he said. "This builds up a better level of trust...I think we'll see that pay off in the years to come."
In 2010, Toronto Police took back the responsibility of policing the transit system.
"We now have 80 officers assigned full time to the transit patrol. They're mostly in the subways, but they're also on the surface routes," said Warr. "A million people a day use the TTC so the exposure to that community is also going to help with our outreach and hopefully with bringing down the crime rates."
Warr said 2010 has been "a fairly good year" though there were challenges with the G20.
"We're looking at studying our public order tactics to be better able to respond to a very mobile fast crowd," he said. "We did things according to our training, according to our planning. And now that we can look back in hindsight...we can see some areas where we could do it a little differently next time."
There has been a gradual downward trend in homicides in the city since 2007. There were 60 murders in 2010 as of Dec. 28, down from 62 in 2009. Toronto had 70 homicides in 2008 and 85 in 2007.
"We're reasonably pleased with the way things are going," Warr said. "We've had some spikes. There have been some violent weekends, but generally the numbers are down."
Police also had success with three cold cases in 2010.
In October, police charged a 52-year-old man in connection with the strangulation deaths of three Parkdale prostitutes in the 1990s.
Though the overall crime rate is down, there has been a spike in marijuana grow operations and meth labs in 2010.
"They're a danger to the community they're in, they're a danger to our officers when they execute search warrants, they're a danger to the people who are tending them," said Warr, noting in some cases police have found families with children living in grow houses.

Source: Toronto Police Service

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