This approach began to develop as a result of a long struggle in Prince Albert with growing social issues and ever-increasing arrest rates. It was stated quite clearly that, “we are not going to arrest our way out of this.” Much of the national dialogue on policing at that time and still today has centered on the need for more policing resources, which was, and still is, central to the success of policing. New investments made at the federal and provincial levels in that regard did in fact benefit both provincial and local policing levels.
Increasingly, however, it was becoming clear that Prince Albert needed to question the degree to which such investments, on their own and apart from any other changes represented a sustainable solution. With the region’s demographics and continuing risk patterns, its social ‘feeder system,’ trending upwards, the arrest rates set to double within the decade, and the increasing costs of policing, it was clear that to have any true impact on community safety there needed to be a change to the inputs: there needed to be a fundamental change to the overall approach.
Fundamental change and “thinking differently” led the Police Chief of the day, Dale McFee to the concept of Community Mobilization. Working collaboratively and not in isolation, community partners and agencies can have a greater impact working together.
These principles of Community Mobilization were what led the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners and the Prince Albert Regional Intersectorial Committee (RIC) to approve a business plan to research, and further develop local applications of community mobilization.
At the same time that Prince Albert was examining these issues of community safety, the concept of “Building Partnerships to Reduce Crime” was being featured heavily in the provincial discussions, with province-wide deliberations on the future of policing, and ultimately government-wide efforts leading to the Government of Saskatchewan’s formation and pronouncement of the BPRC Strategy in 2011.
In November of 2010, in support of that business plan, the Prince Albert Police service, along with Education, Health, Social Services and government representatives, embarked on a trip to Scotland, in order to research the Scottish efforts in crime reduction through community mobilization. The research findings from Scotland not only validated the business plan, but also left the research team and their respective participating agencies with a powerful and vivid demonstration of the potential for tremendous results through implementation of similar strategies in Prince Albert.
After experiencing for many years a multitude of key indicators that mirrored the challenges faced in our own region, Scotland had successfully implemented the principles of Community Mobilization. The nation had already realized dramatic reductions in crime and victimization because of their efforts (in some cases double digits annually), and 10’s of millions of pounds in savings to their government.
The PA research team members were energized by this trip and the research findings and excited to undertake a similar initiative locally, having suffered years of frustration across the front line personnel in the entire human services sector. Armed with these new research findings, it was time to take definitive action.
The initial step taken in this definitive action was to create a presentation to share locally, provincially and nationally to generate interest in the tremendous potential that existed in changing the business model. By November 2011 that presentation had already been viewed no fewer than 80 times, by a broad spectrum of audiences, primarily in the delivery of human services, and at all levels of government and senior decision makers.
The second step was to create and operate a Hub, a key element in Scotland and vital component to Community Mobilization. The bi-weekly meetings commenced February 2011 with our partner Agencies, and Community Mobilization was born.
Recognizing the importance and impact of this PA approach to Community Mobilization, and having shared in the research trip to Scotland, the government’s BPRC Enterprise Team was quick to adopt it as one of the strongest representations of their broader province-wide strategy and a shared funding model began to develop.
The Scottish Influence
As far back as 2008, then Chief of Police Dale McFee and his colleagues were urgently seeking new solutions to community safety in the City of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The city’s crime and violence levels were well above national and even provincial standards, and police calls for service had doubled over the preceding decade, with a trend line projecting this to double again in a span of less than 8 years.
McFee and his colleagues learned that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police ISIS program teams had identified some innovative and highly promising collaborative solutions that had been underway in Scotland for the past few years. The decision was made to seek the support of other concerned agencies serving Prince Albert, and soon, a multi-agency delegation was formed to travel to Glasgow to study these promising practices and to see if what was going on there might have anything to do with the challenges faced at home.
It was interesting to the study team to discover, even as they prepared for their site visit, that on 15 key indicators, the Cities of Glasgow and Prince Albert seemed to have a lot more in common than one might have guessed. These ranged from the dominance of alcohol as a contributing factor in crime and disorder, to the higher than average rates of suicide, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, HIV and Hep C, and truancy, to notably disturbing rates of unemployment, with all of these conditions over-represented within the most marginalized sectors of both societies.
While in Glasgow, the Prince Albert delegation was hosted principally by the Strathclyde Police, and the team was also invited to meet with a wide array of agencies and professionals from across the full spectrum of Scotland’s social system. The team was impressed by a number of innovative approaches, including the award winning Violence Reduction Unit, gang diversion programs, initiatives engaging the medical and dental communities in violence identification and reduction, and the general commitment of the Scots to a ‘Public Health’ model for reducing crime, disorder and violence in their society. By the end of their study week, there was strong consensus on the three observations that struck the team members the most as high potential take-aways for Saskatchewan.
The first was the Scottish Concordat – a joint, signed commitment between the government of the country and the municipal authorities responsible for community life in its cities and towns. This high-level imperative became the model for the Enterprise Charter that now defines the BPRC.
The second was GCSS (G-Cass), which stands for the Glasgow Community Safety Services – a multi-agency collaborative environment for analysis and systemic solutions.
And the third was a still-experimental model operating in Govanhill, a troubled neighbourhood in South Glasgow, where the local police Superintendent and her agency partners had recently begun an innovative and promising daily roundtable process for identifying and addressing elevated risk situations before they became incidents – through a process the Scots called ‘daily tasking’.
Within weeks of returning from the field, the study team rapidly transformed from researchers to architects, and the decision was made to combine the power of these two models, and the Community Mobilization Prince Albert model of the Hub and COR was conceived, formed and activated.