Developing a crime prevention strategy for Trail, one that embraces community insight, is well on its way after 150-or-so locals turned up to share their stories and personal experiences at a public roundtable on Thursday.
“It was very well received and very well attended,” said Trail Coun. Sandy Santori, head of the Community Safety Task Force. “We received a significant amount of input from our citizens, which has really given us a base to start developing a strategic plan,” he told the Trail Times.
“The task force met the very next day, so everything was fresh in our minds. And through Gord McIntosh, the facilitator, we were able to highlight and start to prioritize and identify what some of the key issues are in the community.”
Everyone who attended the meeting was given the opportunity to speak about their experiences in a roundtable setting (smaller group), and Santori says those shared stories mirror the crime statistics police regularly report to council.
“The vast majority of crimes, not to belittle it, are petty crimes,” Santori explained, clarifying participants did not report they had experienced violence towards themselves when the crime took place.
“So that’s encouraging,” he continued. “On the other hand, people still felt violated and that their safety was compromised.”
As a side note, Santori says mental health and addictions did come up, but attendees generally recognized that crime is not necessarily related to individuals openly dealing with these ongoing medical conditions.
“Mental health was represented (at the roundtable), and addiction services was there, so there is a lot going on in the community already to help these people,” he said. “Obviously we can always do more. But there was no finger-pointing and people were very compassionate.”
Notably, the councillor also mentioned the task force is looking at placing needle drop-boxes in certain locales throughout the city, in efforts to deal with used needles that have been turning up in public spaces.
“Even public workers now have to take a course on how to discard these things (used needles),” Santori said. “So we need to educate people with respect to the fact we have these issues and problems … but (users) also need to respect the community and dispose of them accordingly.”
Though it’s too soon to say what will materialize as a result of the public meeting, Santori confirmed certain ideas did surface from the task force’s all-day session held at city hall on Friday.
“A higher police presence … a heavier presence in the downtown core, definitely some sort of bike patrol, ” he said. “And Citizens on Patrol, again, high visibility will hopefully detract or give opportunity to report suspicious behaviour.”
While policing measures will take more time to hash out and, of course, require a budget, there are ways the community can tackle crime prevention right now.
“I think there is some low hanging fruit on what can be done to mitigate some of the behaviours we’ve experienced over the last little while,” Santori said. “And people tend to agree with this, is that we have to educate each other on what we can do to prevent crime, especially in our own homes.”
Sometimes it can be as simple as locking up vehicles and closing garage doors.
“Because we are finding that most of the thefts are taking place as a result of that,” Santori said. “Will we eliminate crime 100 per cent, absolutely not. But public safety is something that is a priority for council and once we develop that strategic plan we will make it very public in terms of some of the initiatives we will be undertaking.”
Mayor Lisa Pasin announced the formation of the Trail Community Safety Task Force shortly after she was elected to her seat last fall.
A 13-member board was appointed a few months ago, after the city developed terms of reference and a specific mandate targeted at supporting public safety and crime prevention strategies.
The three community-at-large members are Terry Martin, former fire chief for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, former RCMP officer Tom McNulty and William Trowell from Selkirk Security.
Other appointees include: Sharon Kucher from Citizens on Patrol; Sgt. Mike Wicentowich from the Greater Trail RCMP; Janet MacNeil, executive director for Trail FAIR Society; Lynn Miller, Interior Health, Mental Health and Substance Use; Sheila Adcock, Trail Association for Community Living; Ed Attridge from the Trail and District Chamber of Commerce; and Darlene McIssaac from the Senior Citizens Association of BC, Branch 47, Trail.
From the city are Coun. Sandy Santori as chair, Coun. Paul Butler, alternate chair, and Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff.