I am speaking to the Region of Waterloo Council this evening about my proposal to address unsustainable annual increases in the police budget by addressing the root causes of crime. My presentation is based upon ideas I first floated a year ago and updated in January 2012.
My planned remarks to Region of Waterloo Council
A year ago, I met with Chief of Police Matt Torigian to discuss the police budget and the need to invest in crime prevention.We met after I tweeted that I’d support his proposed budget if he supported my proposal for the Region of Waterloo’s budget. We never made that agreement but we did talk for well over an hour about law enforcement and preventing crime through addressing the root causes of crime.
One of my goals was to make the Chief aware of how far $8.5 million dollars goes to addressing the root causes of crime by social service agencies. I shared my research of the budgets of about a dozen relevant charities and showed how that much money would double the budget of even the largest of those I picked. In fact, it is more than the combined budgets of nine well known local charities. My purpose was to put his request into perspective and why I was proposing that more be done to help the work of these agencies.
The seed of an idea that I tried to plant a year ago has not yet sprouted so I am here today to ask you to help me plant it again.
My proposal to budget for crime prevention
I remain concerned about the sustainability of large annual increases to the police budget and believe we need to more aggressively address the root causes of crime.
Looking at the regional budget only in terms of dollars and cents and arguing to keep taxes as low as possible and avoid increases is a false economy. There are economic consequences to our decisions today and we’ll need to pay the price at some point. It may not be 2013 but we will pay more for law enforcement in the future in terms of police, the courts and prisons than we would if we address issues before they get to the point that enforcement must be a bigger part of the solution.
1. Increase Crime Prevention Council budget by at least the same percentage as police budget
As a matter of principle, I believe both regional bodies addressing crime should receive the same percentage increase each year.
For 2013, I recommend supporting the request for funds to keep InReach, the successful gang prevention program, operating.
2. Fund a new Waterloo Region Smart on Crime Foundation
I propose creating a Waterloo Region Smart on Crime Foundation. It would disperse funds to initiatives that address the root causes of crime. While this could include the police services, I would see the funds mainly going to collaborative programs run under the umbrella of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council or by any other social profit sector organization that has an initiative consistent with a smart on crime approach.
I’m not seeking an immediate investment. Instead I request that Council pass a motion instructing staff to investigate my proposal and report back to Council with recommended next steps prior to the release of the 2014 budget.
In the future, my proposal is that the Region of Waterloo would commit to putting aside something like $1 million a year for 10 years. I’d like to see at least $10 million in the fund and that grants be given up to the amount of the annual return on the invested funds. At all times, there should be a base of at least $10 million dollars with growth in the fund used to support programs addressing the root causes of crime. I’d hope that other municipal governments, businesses and individuals might also use the foundation to invest in crime prevention.
The Smart on Crime Foundation could be its own entity, be part of the KW Community Foundation or Cambridge & North Dumfries Community Foundation–or better yet a foundation with a regional mandate.
3. Enacting a poverty reduction strategy for the Region of Waterloo
I know that work is being done by the Region on how to reduce poverty. I hope this work will conclude early in the New Year so that we can adequately budget to begin implementation by 2014. For next year, I support using funds to alleviate changes to social assistance provincially.
4. Increase public awareness of who can help and how to make contact
I understand that the increase in calls for police assistance is outpacing the demands for policing created by our growing community. But the police are not always the best service to respond. Handling these types of calls stretches resources. I’m confident that our social service agencies are better suited to addressing many of these needs instead of a police officer.
Many people call the police because they don’t know where they could turn for help or how to contact them. The 211 service is designed to help people find and connect to community resources. I suspect if you asked any 10 people in downtown Galt, Fairview Park Mall, the UW Technology Park or the Elmira Maple Syrup Festiveal, you’d be lucky if you found many, if any, who knew about this great service.
We need to maximize the benefits of 211 by making sure as many people as possible know about it in Waterloo Regio. I’m hoping that we’ll see a significant effort in 2013 to raise awareness that it exists and how it can help. Doing so is a relatively easy way to reduce demands on the resources of our police services while addressing the root causes of crime.