Criminology students gathering information for neighbourhood safety audits could soon be knocking on doors to get a sense of how crime is affecting Nanaimo.
Door-to-door canvassing will be one tool applied to gather information for a joint project between the Nanaimo RCMP, City of Nanaimo and criminology students to conduct safety audits in selected neighbourhoods.
According to RCMP, safety audits have been shown to be effective in Canadian and U.S. cities in tackling challenges posed by neighbourhood crime.
Christy Wood, Nanaimo RCMP Community Policing coordinator, who will lead the project, said rising crime activity also raises feelings of fear, which over time undermines people’s sense of safety and security and weakens neighbourhood cohesion. The goal of safety audits is to work with neighbourhoods to find ways to diminish opportunities for crime and employ relevant crime prevention programs.
Half a dozen neighbourhoods will be selected for the initial stage of the project.
“I envision that we’ll probably be able to do about six audits over three or four weeks and then there’ll be time required to prepare the reports,” Wood said.
Safety audit findings can help police and decision makers within the city identify priorities and incorporate crime prevention measures that can directly target these areas, leading to safer and healthier neighbourhoods, say RCMP.
The community policing program will partner with a variety of people and organizations that include neighbourhood associations, local decision makers and citizens who will have an opportunity to share their experiences and perceptions of crime in their neighbourhoods to provide a better understanding of how Nanaimo’s communities are affected by crime and help guide efforts to address issues and concerns.
Residents sharing their experiences with crime will also directly influence the direction of the project and help to create a stronger relationship between these neighbourhoods and the RCMP and help create familiarity amongst members of these neighbourhoods as they work together to identify crime in their areas.
The Nanaimo RCMP Community Policing unit, criminology students, and the Nanaimo RCMP’s crime analyst are currently identifying neighbourhoods for audits and the selection process should be completed, Wood said, by the end of February.
“We’ve basically pulled all the statistics and our hope is by building this platform and all the documents and tools required, that we’ll be able to do this on a yearly basis,” Wood said. “So people who can’t participate this time, but really want to, can next year. We can also use it as a baseline for neighbourhoods that are maybe looking at different things that they want to do in their neighbourhood, goals that they can work on and that sort of stuff.”
Residents who want to participate can provide input via an online survey, participate in the audit itself or both. All personal information will be kept confidential and responses kept anonymous.
“I am looking forward to hearing from residents about the concerns they have and the pressures they are experiencing in their respective neighbourhoods,” said Insp. Lisa Fletcher, the Nanaimo RCMP detachment’s acting officer in charge, in a press release. “I believe the safety audits are an excellent means to gather meaningful input from residents, and to assist us in finding relevant ways to address crime throughout our community.”