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Is Saskatchewan’s Crime-Reduction Initiative a model for states across America facing high crime rates?

eyewitness imageIn 2007, the government of Saskatchewan (SK), Canada, in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and social service providers, decided to investigate alternative ways of addressing the province’s consistently high rates of crime. Research continued until 2010, and the idea of partnerships and cooperation was settled upon, due in part to the fact that the city of Prince Albert (P.A.), SK, had been in the early stages of implementing a new policing initiative, Community Mobilization Prince Albert)—known as the HUB, which refers to the ‘hub’ of information sharing that occurs between key community stakeholders during meetings, and Centre of Responsibility (COR), which puts an emphasis on partnerships.

The Prince Albert HUB and Centre of Responsibility (COR)

In 2010, Community Mobilization Prince Albert was established. The initiative is modeled on the success of Glasgow, Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, which used a public health model of policing strategy.

The HUB

The first component of Community Mobilization Prince Albert is the HUB, which comprises representatives from 32 different agencies who work with at-risk individuals or offenders in the community. The social service agencies represented at a typical HUB meeting are the Prince Albert Police Service and Fire Department, youth counselors from community-based organizations, and staff members from housing organizations, addiction programs, public and private schools, the tribal council, and the RCMP. The HUB meets twice weekly and has had “more than 600 discussions in an attempt to identify at-risk individuals in their community based on data supplied by agencies or analysts” (Turner 2013). The goal of the HUB is to use the combined resources of these agencies to identify and respond to the needs of at-risk individuals or families within a 24- to 48-hour time frame. The strategy of these rapid responses is to assess the need for assistance and generate a collaborative solution that is tailored to each individual or family’s needs prior to more serious problems occurring.

The Centre of Responsibility (COR)

The second component of Community Mobilization Prince Albert is the Centre of Responsibility (COR), which is focused on finding solutions to more serious community issues. This program is informed by the issues HUB members identify as the most pressing long term social or criminal issues facing the community, such as alcoholism, homelessness, youth crime, food security, early childhood health, and persons with mental illness. The COR employs three full-time staff members who “focus on identifying the big-picture, systemic problems and solutions” (Turner 2013) via data analysis and research on viable long-term solutions.

Since introducing the HUB and COR into Prince Albert in 2010, de Souza observed that there was a “47 percent reduction in the number of missing persons filed to 366 calls so far this year, down from 690 at this time last year,” and a “53 percent reduction in assaults and 23 percent reduction in property crimes from June to August over the previous year.” (de Souza 2011) Lastly, Paperny found that
“[e]ighteen months in, the new strategy is working: Violent crime in Prince Albert is down 28 percent compared to mid-year 2011, after years of consecutive increases.” (Paperny 2012)

Saskatchewan's Building Partnerships to Reduce Crime Initiative

eyewitness imageThe Building Partnerships to Reduce Crime (BPRC) initiative replicated P.A.’s HUB and COR program across the province with three main objectives:
1) suppression, 2) prevention, and
3) intervention. The first objective focuses on arrests, prosecution, sentencing, supervision, and rehabilitation to deal with crime. This objective also provides a framework for key stakeholders from the community, such as police officers, addictions workers, health professionals, educators, and youth outreach workers to support one another and provide help in dealing with recurring issues stemming from certain individuals or families in the community. The next key objective is prevention, which focuses on collaboration among all key stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the roots behind a recurring criminal act, such as drug or alcohol use, issues with family violence, housing, or an array of other issues. As a result of positive discussions with all of a community’s key stakeholders that takes place twice a week, identification of the most at-risk individuals or families within their community in need of an intervention can occur. Upon key community stakeholders identifying at-risk community members, an intervention plan, which is the final key objective, can begin to take shape through the identification of the social services, police, and other key stakeholders that have had the most contact with the identified at-risk community member. The intervention objective focuses on collaboration, highlighting how crucial each key stakeholder is to this initiative due to the specific expertise each person or group will bring into solving a unique issue pertaining to a specific case. The result of this initiative generates collaborative solutions to deal with at-risk individuals who consistently come in contact with the police, social services, educators, addictions, or youth outreach services.

The BPRC is currently overseen by eight of the province’s largest police department’s senior members in collaboration with a number of officials from provincial ministers, and together these individuals make up the strategic subcommittee that guides the BPRC initiative throughout the province. In addition, once the subcommittee and executives of the BPRC identify a community in the province that would benefit from the BPRC initiative, local leaders are tapped for insight and ideas as to how a BPRC initiative could function to best fit each community’s specific needs. Moreover, potential communities are encouraged to build from positive programs or projects that have already been established, which requires inclusion on the local level of First Nations leaders, municipal leaders, community-based organizations, private sector groups, and community members. In addition, the BPRC has partnered with the two largest universities in the province, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina, which act as the Centre of Responsibility (COR) for the BPRC. Together these two universities conduct research that allows residents to better understand the issues facing the province while providing possible solutions to BPRC HUB members for dealing with crime or the many issues that stem from crime.

Moreover, “as of October 2012, eight ‘Hub’ initiatives were in different stages of development and implementation [across Saskatchewan]. An evaluation framework for BPRC is currently under development and the evaluation will be implemented in early 2013/14” (Pubic Safety Canada-BPRC Synopsis). Furthermore, the government of Saskatchewan announced on November 22, 2013 that Weyburn and Estevan would be the locations of the province’s southeast regional HUBs. Marlo Pritchard, the Weyburn Police Chief, who is a co-chair of the southeast regional HUB’s steering committee, described the new “South East Community Mobilization Hub [as having] proven successful in other locations, specifically Prince Albert, and I am confident it will positively affect change in our communities as well.” (First Regional HUB Program Announced, 2013)

Jason Fenno, M.A. Police Studies
University of Regina, SK, Canada
Intern with INTERPOL


References

De Souza, A. 2011. “New policing model seeing tangible results.” Last modified September 30, 2011. http://panow.com/article/131678/new-policing-model-seeing-tangible-results.

Government of Saskatchewan. 2013. “First regional hub program announced in Estevan and Weyburn.” Last modified November 22, 2013. http://www.gov.sk.ca/news?newsId=fb527158-0835-4369-af1b-bfeb630a88c6.

Paperny, A. M. 2012. “Toronto tries Saskatchewan’s method for stopping crime before it starts.” The Globe and Mail. Last modified July 23, 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto-tries-saskatchewans-method-for-stopping-crime-before-it-starts/article4429028/.

Public Safety Canada, 2013. “Building Partnerships to Reduce Crime (BPRC) (Synopsis).” Last modified March 5, 2014. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/cntrng-crm/plcng/cnmcs-plcng/ndx/snpss-eng.aspx?n=154.

Turner, R. 2013. “The crime fighter's revolution.” Winnipeg Free Press, Last modified June 1, 2013. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/the-crime-fighters-revolution--it-was-born-in-a-small-prairie-town-with-five-prisons-and-a-drinking-problem-but-violence-is-giving-way-to-hope-and-that-hope-is-why-winnipeg-police-chief-devon-209771811.html.

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