PETERBOROUGH- With an increase in crime severity in Peterborough, police have announced they will be taking a no-tolerance approach when it comes to public illicit drug use in the community starting today.
“We are aware that there will be people that are both accepting of this stance and those who are not. As we adopt this approach, it is important to acknowledge that addiction is an illness, and it is not the intent of the Peterborough Police Service to criminalize those who are afflicted with this illness. The intent is to promote the message that the Service is committed to safer public spaces for all residents. We will continue to work within a system that supports those whose mandate is the promotion of public health, and while we know it is an imperfect system, public safety cannot wait for perfection.” said Chief Stuart Betts in making the announcement today.
Betts says the Safer Public Spaces approach is about balancing the needs and expectations of all residents in our community while recognizing the need for a compassionate response for those suffering with addiction. The Service also knows that the community expects that public places such as parks, places of business, and most importantly places where our children go such as playgrounds should also be safe according to Betts.
This approach means that if officers see open-air illicit drug use or if/when we receive a call for service from a concerned resident we will attend and direct that person to stop and move to a different location. It’s unclear whether they would be sent to an indoor location or private property. The Service will ensure people are provided information (if they choose to accept it) that speaks to the resources available in our community.
The decision to implement the Safer Public Spaces approach is one that builds upon the information in the Community Safety Well-Being Plan around feelings of safety according to police. Betts says he is concerned that only 48% of survey respondents feel safe or very safe in their community and that for 71% of survey respondents feelings of safety influence where they go and what they do in our city.
In the Police Services Act, police services have five core responsibilities, and we feel that this approach fulfils two of the primary pillars, crime prevention and law enforcement.
In order to understand the impact of promoting Safer Public Spaces, the Peterborough Police Service has established key performance indicators to measure impacts, including the number of calls associated with this approach, whether they are officer or citizen generated, locations where engagements are taking place, the types of illicit substances that are encountered as well as referrals to community supports such as the Consumption Treatment Site (CTS), referral to the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team and/or diversion to a community program, and where appropriate, whether or not an arrest was required.
“The overall severity of crime has increased in our city over the past five years, while our clearance rates have continued to decrease. We also know that much of the violent crime in our community, in the past few years, has been connected to the proliferation of illicit drugs. The drugs in our community are not only dangerous and unsafe, but they bring with them a level of violence to the people using them and by extension, to others in community. By using the Safer Public Spaces approach we hope to give the community back a sense of safety.” explains Chief Betts.