The Task Force on Community Safety has completed its mandate and is no longer active. The following information is provided for archival purposes.
For more information, please see the Community Safety portal.
The Interim Report of Toronto's Task Force on Community Safety
In response to concerns about fear and crime, the new City of Toronto set up a Task Force on Community Safety at its first City Council meeting in January 1998.
The mandate of the Task Force is to develop a comprehensive and coordinated plan for the City of Toronto that will make our City a world leader in community-based crime prevention. This action plan will build on:
- consultation with the citizens of Toronto;
- best practices in Toronto and other cities;
- partnerships between the City of Toronto, other levels of government, the private sector, community organizations and citizens; and
- a "root cause approach" which deals most effectively with the origins rather than the symptoms of the problems being addressed.
The Task Force on Community Safety will report back to Toronto City Council in January 1999.
Community consultation: the key to a good safety strategy
As a first step in developing an action plan, a survey was sent out to 6,500 individuals and organizations involved in making their communities safer, and a further 1,140 were sent to each member of council to distribute to constituents who were active in safety concerns. Residents and tenants associations, childcare centres, parent school councils, agencies, community centres, business associations and service clubs all received surveys asking them to identify top concerns and what can be done to improve community safety.
Top community safety issues
The Task Force wants to set priorities, by tackling the top community safety issues identified by citizens and community groups.
The survey asked: "What are the three most important community safety/crime prevention issues in your community?"
The most common responses to this question were: violence and fear of violence (especially street safety, and violence against children and young people - 26 per cent) and property crime (especially home break-ins and auto theft - 21per cent). Together, violence/fear of violence and property crime accounted for almost half of the responses (47 per cent).
Thirteen percent of responses can be grouped together as "incivilities" or offenses to public order, minor crimes that can have an impact on how people feel about their city. These concerns included vandalism and street prostitution. Drugs and other substances were brought up in 11% of responses. Economic and social inequities, such as homelessness and cuts to social services were seen as a top community safety concern in 10 per cent of responses.
The Task Force wants to create policies and programs that will be effective in the long term by addressing the root causes of community safety concerns.
The survey asked: "What do you think are the three most important underlying causes of the issues mentioned above?"
The underlying causes of crime concerns are identified as: economic (especially poverty, lack of cuts to community resources for children and youth, and unemployment - 33 per cent) and social (especially issues around parenting and other socialization/upbringing, intolerance/lack of respect for others, and lack of connectedness to neighbours - 31 per cent), which together made up almost two thirds of the responses.
Policing and Justice issues, such as not enough community policing/police on the streets, and non-accountable sentencing, made up another 16 per cent of responses. Urban Planning and Maintenance issues, such as bad traffic planning, poor lighting, and abandoned buildings, accounted for 9% of responses, and Health-Related root causes, primarily substance abuse, were identified in 8 per cent of responses.
What organizations are presently doing
The Task Force wants to build on successful work already being accomplished in Toronto.
The survey asked: "Please provide examples of how your organization is presently working on improving community safety and reducing crime and fear".
Of the diverse organizations that responded to the survey (only a minority of which have crime prevention as their primary mandate), 72 per cent are providing programs or services that they feel are improving community safety.
Over one quarter (28 per cent) of organizations are providing public education and awareness building on community safety resources (including staff training, community education, and programs with young people).
One quarter (25 per cent) of organizations are organizing or participating in a specific neighbourhood safety program, which include but are not limited to neighbourhood watch-type initiatives and safety audits.
Almost one in five organizations (19 per cent) point to general neighbourhood strengthening projects, such as programs for children and youth, that promote community safety.
Fourteen percent of organizations are working with police, 5 per cent of organizations are advocating on planning and maintenance issues (such as advocating to close down drug houses), and 5 per cent are carrying out anti-violence programs.
What the City of Toronto should be doing
The Task Force wants to hear what local government should be doing to promote community safety and prevent crime and fear.
The survey asked: "How can the City of Toronto help you address these underlying causes at the community/ neighbourhood level?"
The two top responses to this question were: policing and justice reform (especially putting more police on the streets, and improving community policing - 26 per cent), and strengthening neighbourhoods (especially improving programs for children and youth, general neighbourhood programs, and programs for vulnerable groups such as women and the elderly - 24 per cent). These two responses together accounted for half of the suggestions.
Close to one in five responses (19 per cent) recommended programs that organized neighbourhood partners on safety concerns. Public education on safety resources (12 per cent), community economic development and employment programs (6 per cent), support for anti-violence programs (5 per cent) were also recommended.
Directions for action
The following directions for action will be prioritized by the Task Force for further research and community input. Recommendations related to these directions for action will be developed at the Community Spirit = Community Safety conference on Saturday, November 7, 1998:
- Community mobilization programs and safety.
- Family-based community safety programs.
- Recreation-based community safety programs.
- Education-based community safety programs.
- Community economic development programs and safety.
- Promoting community safety in places.
- Community-police partnerships.
- Justice programs and community safety.
- Substance abuse.
- Monitoring and evaluation.
Participate in the Community Spirit = Community Safety conference and take part in making Toronto a safe place to live, work and play. (Conference took place on November 7, 1998).