'There’s a growing anxiety out there': Board of Police Commissioner’s discuss public perception following public engagement
Troy Cooper, who's been chief with the Prince Albert Police Service since 2012, awaits an announcement naming him Saskatoon's new police chief Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at Saskatoon City Hall. (Angelina Irinici/CTV Saskatoon)
SASKATOON -- Police Chief Troy Cooper says in 2020, the city's police service will add more patrol officers and shuffle around resources to tackle crime in violent areas of Saskatoon.
"There's a role for visible enforcement and you'll start to see some of that, and there's been a bit of a restructure so we can target some of the high-violent areas with more resources in 2020 so we think we'll be successful," Cooper said.
Cooper made the comments following a Board of Police Commissioner's meeting at city hall on Thursday.
During the meeting, the board reviewed the results of a public consultation the board held at the Farmer's Market in October 2019.
The results of that consultation pointed to some serious concerns felt by the community, including a rise in gang violence.
The number one theme from the consultations pointed to a slow response time by police, and the perception that police are not adequately equipped to deal with the crime in the city (https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/t-1.4773020).
Cooper said he doesn't see the results of the consultations as a criticism, but merely a description of what people see in their communities.
"So what we take from that is a desire for us to consider some of the things that are driving crime, addictions and mental health," Cooper said. "We saw a real desire from the community to want to be involved and be a partner to be consulted and communicated with and so that's something we can work on."
During the discussion Mayor Charlie Clark admitted the rise in crime has been a challenge for city council, but the solution isn't crystal clear in his opinion.
"It's all underlined by a complex social environment," Clark said.
"We need to continue to find innovative ways to share information and understand the problems in a more sophisticated way."
He added there’s a “growing anxiety out there” when it comes to community safety.
During the consultations, Clark said he didn't hear a cry for more police officers, rather a coordinated system between law enforcement and community agencies, to try and get to the root causes of crime.
Clark also referenced a few properties in the city that are eating up a lot of calls and putting a strain on police resources. Clark referenced one property that saw more than 400 calls in a year.
"Safety concerns these properties present is creating a lot of challenges for communities and families," he said.
Police working on cutting down wait times
Cooper said the police service is already tackling the issue of wait times for officers, as they've started the recruitment process for eight officers, dedicated to patrolling the high-violent areas in the city, but there's more work that need to be done from an organizational standpoint.
"It's not about how long someone has to wait, it's about making sure that if someone's waiting, it's the right call that we have people waiting for, so it's resource deployment that we have to do a review of to make sure we have appropriate levels of staff and that they're deployed in the right areas of the city," he said.
City council approved the police's request to hire an additional 12 officers in 2020.