What the return of community policing means for Vanier

Polica in Vanier

Vanier merchants once again have a dedicated team of police officers working in their community while using a strategy of relationship-building to improve neighbourhood safety.

The Ottawa Police Services launched a new pilot project, dubbed the Neighbourhood Resource Team (NRT) in Vanier, Overbrook and several other communities in late October. It’s a return to the community based policing model that the Ottawa Police employed up until 2017.

“We heard loud and clear that it is sorely missed,” says Insp. Kenneth Bryden, adding that residents and business owners alike told the Ottawa Police that a dedicated, community police force is important to them.

Polica in Vanier

The new nine-member team consists of five constables, one community police officer, one school resource officer, one traffic officer and a sergeant overseeing them all.

“These officers will remain in their communities at all times – they will not be pulled away by the radio and they do not respond to 911 calls (unless that call is inside their assigned community),” says Bryden. “They will have the time and capacity to work with residents and business owners to focus on crime prevention.”

The Neighbourhood Resource Teams are on a five-year fixed term, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of the community they serve.

“It’s going to take work to get back to where we need to be, where we’d like to be, working at the root of these issues,” says Bryden. “This takes time.”

Nevertheless, the new teams are already seeing results. On Nov. 19, the Vanier NRT quickly nabbed a dangerous hit-and-run driver who caused a serious crash on Montreal Road before fleeing on foot. The NRT worked with witnesses on the street to track the suspect to a bus shelter before arresting him.

Proactive policing

Carleton University professor Linda Duxbury, who has extensively researched policing in Canada, says the proactive and highly visible approach that’s at the heart of the NRT model can lead to significant, systemic change in the long term.

“When we only see police responding to problems, we associate them with bad things happening,” says Duxbury. “We need to start thinking about proactive policing – they’re here to stop that bad thing from happening in the first place.”

Duxbury draws a parallel to motorists on a highway. If commuters regularly see police cruisers, they’re more likely to slow down and drive safely because they perceive a higher risk of being caught speeding.

The same logic applies would-be burglars and vandals. If they regularly see police officers on the street – and if they know that those same police officers regularly see them – they are more likely to consider the risks of being caught.

However, Duxbury cautions that it’s a long-term effort.

This is not something that will happen overnight – it will take six months to a year to really start to see the results,” she says. “Give it a chance to work.”

Contacting police

The crime reporting system remains unchanged. For crimes in progress, call 911. To report a non-emergency situation, call OPS at 613-236-1222 x7300. Officers can then forward the report to the Vanier NRT. While there is no dedicated email address for the Vanier NRT, merchants can connect with them at neighbourhoodresourceteams@ottawapolice.ca.

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