Do you remember a time when Weston had neighbourhood police ‘walking the beat’? These officers stayed in the community, and they were friendly and familiar. They got to know residents, shopkeepers, faith groups, the youth (by name), and those struggling or needing help. The best of these officers earned immense trust, got involved, supported local initiatives that helped keep everyone safe.
Then again, maybe such a time never really existed? Perhaps now?
Toronto Police’s Neighbourhood Community Officer (NCO) program is now in Weston, and its vision for policing is almost reminiscent of a bygone era.
Constable Alex Benyi is one of four dedicated Division 12 officers who recently made a four-year commitment to be Weston’s new Community Officers. And he’s thrilled to be in this role. He knows Weston, and he’s watched it grow during his last ten years in policing. “This is Weston’s moment,” he says excitedly, referencing the influx of transit, new small businesses, new families, new Canadians—the diversity of the neighbourhood and our community spirit.
Alex was born in Romania and came to Canada in 1992 as a landed immigrant. Soon he was a Tennis Canada High-Performance Coach and on the ski patrol. He started his family and had his own small business; he brings life experience to policing that helps him relate.
When asked about how he wants to get involved in the community, he says, “I’ve always been invested in Division 12 neighbourhoods and Weston in particular because of the large Hungarian/Roma community. I know the culture, and I speak the language.” He adds that he wants to be a part of a tennis program with the Weston York Tennis facility; he knows the local pro. He cycles too and hopes to enjoy the trails with others from Weston.
His passion is easy to see: “I want to continue to learn about this community and improve. For me, every day I come to work is a day where I want to feel I made a difference for someone or someplace.” He adds: “We have so many resources to help the community; we want to work with community partners and leaders to bring the best of these to Weston.” Here he is referencing crime prevention programs, gang exit strategy, victim services, help in domestic disputes, youth engagement, etc.
He adds: “We know it takes time, involvement, and goodwill to earn a community’s trust; it’s not automatic. We hope Weston will help us build this together.”
His partner is 24-year police veteran Constable Cherry Atkins. Look for them helping at the food bank or visiting the Farmers’ Market when it starts up soon. Alex and Cherry work 7-day shifts, 11-hour days, for a whole week. On Thursdays, they swap out with the other two officers in the program, who become our community officer ambassadors for the week – Constables Brian Davy and Colin Patrick (filling in for Constable M. Dosanjh for the first few months).