Now is the time to get smart about crime control, an expert told a Red Deer audience on Wednesday.
Irvin Waller, a government advisor and University of Ottawa professor, said proven strategies can reduce violence and property crime in a city like Red Deer by about 50 per cent in three to five years.
He said one strategy is to invest in community partnerships, early childhood, youth and family programs. Waller was the keynote speaker at a crime prevention workshop in Red Deer on Wednesday. He shared some insights from his third book, Smarter Crime Control: An Agenda for Action.
Waller called the city’s recent crime control investment — equivalent to the salary of one police officer — a minimalist start.
He said cities must ensure that every dollar spent on policing is matched with investments that help youth stay out of crime, changes the attitudes of boys in school and focuses on early learning and colleges.
“It’s a first baby step but baby steps are central to people taking big steps later on,” said Waller. “I hope the momentum (continues). … Smart spending for where it will make a difference. You need to have fewer women raped, fewer women battered, fewer people hurt on the streets. … All that is achievable given our current knowledge but it requires investment in those things that will achieve that.”
Waller cited results from strategies in Winnipeg, the United States, England and Scotland that municipalities should look to for examples.
Waller said the majority of the policing money spent at a municipal and provincial levels is in reaction to 911 calls. And he said that needs to shift.
He said he was surprised that Red Deer had only just hired a crime analyst.
“The analyst needs to help and work with the police but also work with schools, housing, child care and youth programs and need to bring information to city council so they can make better funding decisions in the future,” he said.
Waller painted a picture of the crime rates in Canada using data from police administrative data, Statistics Canada and other sources. He said in a typical year in a city with a population of 100,000, 6,000 adults will be assaulted, there will be 1,600 victims of sexual assault and 1,800 victims of theft from or in cars.
Waller said he was encouraged by the size of the workshop but he said there is a lot of work to be done.
TerryLee Ropchan, Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre executive director, said they hoped to get started that afternoon. Workshop members delved into discussions about crime prevention and ways they can work together on making Red Deer safer.
Ropchan said hearing some of the information from Waller reaffirmed the necessity for the centre.
“It is a good time to bring him in because he is someone who can be that catalyst to get people thinking about the (prevention side) to it,” said Ropchan.