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Crime is down, changes abound

February 27th, 2012 · No Comments

14 DIVISION TO OPEN NEW HEADQUARTERS THIS SEPTEMBER

By Perry King

14 Division's new headquarters on Dovercourt Road is to open this fall. Perry King/Gleaner News.

Toronto police’s 14 Division may have had a great 2011, but New Year’s Day was not a time for them to rest on their laurels.

The New Year’s stabbing death of Mike Pimentel in Liberty Village “was only one isolated event that raised concerns to me on New Year’s Eve. There were other events as well that raised concerns for me,” said 14‘s Superintendent Mario di Tommaso, who, with Inspector Dave Vickers, sat down with the Gleaner at their headquarters (150 Harrison St.) to review 2011 and discuss changes for 14 in 2012.

With parties going on throughout the division, 14 wanted to to stay proactive that night, and planned as best as possible for every scenario. “Those issues come to my attention, they come to Inspector Vickers’ attention, and we formulate plans around ‘What could we have done better? Was there anything that could have been done better to prevent this?,’” said di Tommaso. The division calls weekly planning meetings between Homicide, crime analysts, and his constables to plan ahead.

With a year where Mayor Rob Ford emphasized cost-cutting and making all police divisions more financially equitable, the division has been focusing on “improving service delivery” for some time.

“We are very cognizant that we have to employ the resources that we do have in a cost effective basis, but that money is there to be spent and it is there to be spent wisely. This money belongs to the taxpayers, and when you spend that money, we try to do it as effectively and efficiently as possible,” says di Tommaso, who deploys his squad based on facts developed through the division’s relationship with the local community.

Pimentel’s death on Liberty Street the morning of Jan. 1 was the first homicide in 14 this year. The investigation, as of press date, is still open and no arrests have been made.

But, the homicide rate in 14 is not a high one. In 2011, there were four, the same amount in 2010. In fact, crime across six major statistical categories all dropped in 2011, including assaults (down five per cent), auto thefts (eight per cent) and break and enter offenses (20 per cent). “The major crime indicators is a really good representation of what crime’s doing in a particular area or a city. We’ve dropped about 20 per cent over the last two years, and that’s a reduction from three years ago,” said Vickers.

A NEW TOP DOG

The division was able to do their job amidst many changes in the ranks.

The most glaring change in the ranks has come at the top. The departure of unit commander Ruth White and the arrival of di Tommaso in November may mark a significant shift in how the division will be shaped moving forward.“Every unit commander is in charge of their station and their community and every unit commander—either a superintendent or staff inspector in Toronto—has the autonomy to have a look at what the issues are of that particular community, and create and lead initiatives to make sure that the service is being provided to [the community] and that the safety of the community is paramount ,” said Vickers.

“Historically, I think that can be said for all unit commanders, that we all have the same common goal, but how we go about it could be a little different.”

Di Tommaso, with two-year stints in Toronto’s 52 Division, the Intelligence Unit and the Drug Squad, says that he will incorporating that experience into the community policing approach that 14 has instituted and the knowledge of his staff, who have been the division much longer. “It’s a very effective and efficient unit [Ruth White has] left, and that was her legacy to me,” said di Tommaso.

14 Division saw the execution of several drug sweeps, including Project Blue Rabbit (a project di Tommaso was involved in), and Projects Klondike and Decepticon—which resulted in the arrests of 49 people combined, and the seizure of illicit drugs, valued in the thousands of dollars.

We are very cognizant that we have to employ the resources that we do have in a cost effective basis—Superintendent Mario di Tommaso

Blue Rabbit, which was executed through an increased presence in various locations in the division, saw the reduction of robberies by 44 per cent, break and enters by 73 per cent, and assaults by 72 per cent over ten weeks. “I draw upon a lot of those experiences to help me here. I also rely on the good judgment and advice of Inspector Vickers and all of my senior section heads. We run this unit collectively as a team, but at the end of the day, the buck stops here, I am in charge.” he said.

SETTING BOUNDARIES

On Sept. 26, 14 division also changed their western borders with 11 Division. They now border at Dufferin Street, and monitor further west and south on Queen Street to Roncesvalles Avenue. The feedback on the changes have been positive so far. “We have lots of consultation with the communities that are involved there … the people of South Parkdale feel like the policing has increased their feeling of satisfaction from the service they’ve been provided,” said Vickers.

However, as a result, the division handed over 30 constables and a sergeant to 11 Division, and the Community Response Unit will be leaving their base at the Exhibition Place sub-station. But, “This process is not yet over,” said di Tommaso. “What we’re doing, on a monthly basis, is evaluating the data that comes in.”

In a few months, the neighbouring divisions will take into account that data—including the calls for service, which is way down in 14 but higher in 11, the amount of arrests and the enforcement strategies—in a comparison of pre- and post-boundary changes, and determine whether the deployment changes have been adequate and effective.

As well, 14 Division wants to, with the city’s blessing, retain the Exhibition Place building rather than close and sell, as it can still be “an operational asset,” says di Tommaso.

The Community Response Unit, like everyone else, is moving into the new 14 Division headquarters this fall, one of the many changes that di Tommaso and Vickers are excited to see this year. They are also excited to see other initiatives gather momentum, including the growth of the Youth Community Policing Liaison Community (Youth CPLC).

“During the initial meetings, there were some growing pains,” says di Tommaso, but the perspectives from these young people—from bullying to mental health issues—can definitely help the division plan and work with others down the road.

DOWN, DOWN, DOWN

How much had the crime rate decreased in 14 Division in 2011? Check out this graph below.


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