Saturday’s article in the National Post didn’t do Weston any favours. As a result of crimes such as repeated muggings in prominent locations, long promised security cameras have yet to be installed along Lawrence at Weston, Pine and Jane. In the story which dealt with the growing number of such cameras around the city, our councillor cheerfully painted a grim picture (contrary to the reality of falling crime levels) of how crime-ridden we are in Weston. Do we really need to give people the impression that we live in a lawless area with bullets flying?
Much of the criminal activity occurring was phone theft. While serious and traumatic for victims, these are not major crimes. When allowed to continue however, they represent a failure of policing in that they were happening regularly in the same locations and little was done to address the problem. Petty thieves became emboldened and escalated their activities. Instead of staking out these known locations or setting up foot patrols where officers walk the beat and get to know a community, TPS uses a system in which police spend much of their shift waiting for calls. Hence the common appearance of several cruisers at a crime scene. We did have a group of provincially funded TAVIS officers in the summer of 2011 but one-off solutions are ineffective. The TAVIS team rarely ventured out in groups of less than five or six and rather than being ambassadors for the police, they seemed quite intimidating on occasions.
Once criminals know about cameras in a particular location, they will simply move to another spot in which to commit their crimes. The answer to crime prevention is not simply cameras and cell-phone legislation – we can’t have cameras in every public place surely? Then what? Does crime prevention become a matter of employing teams of people who spend all day watching monitors? Perhaps send a drone over to check things out? Four million such cameras are currently in use in the U.K. They seem to do little to prevent criminal activity.
The answer is getting officers out of cars and walking the beat while getting to know a neighbourhood; especially in times and places when and where crimes are most likely to occur. The benefits will be immediate – healthier officers, better relations with the community, lower pollution levels and less crime.
In the meantime, don’t hold your breath for the cameras to appear anytime soon. In spite of a 2011 recommendation that they be installed, Toronto Police still have to ask permission from Toronto Hydro to use their poles.