Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 47, May 11, 2009

May 11th 2009

1. Police Officers in Schools  TPACs letter
2. The effectiveness, or not, of police cameras
3. Crime stats across the country
4. Schertzer case appealed
5. Love those Danish police

Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 47, May 11, 2009.

This Bulletin is published by the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, a group of individuals and organizations in Toronto interested in police policies and procedures, and in making police more accountable to the community they are committed to serving. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca
In this issue:
1. Police Officers in Schools  TPACs letter
2. The effectiveness, or not, of police cameras
3. Crime stats across the country
4. Schertzer case appealed
5. Love those Danish police
6. Subscribe to the Bulletin
1. Police officers in schools  TPACs letter

TPAC has recently written both the Toronto Polices Services Board and the Toronto District School Board, asking them not to continue with putting police officers full time in schools. Heres the body of the letters:

`This letter addresses the question of the impact of posting officers in schools in the expectation that an informed decision will be made as to whether this practice should continue in the school year commencing in September 2009.

`Some limited data is available concerning the posting of police officers in schools, and other data is available concerning crime and schools. Unfortunately no criteria for success were established before decisions were made to put officers in schools, which means it is difficult to determine if the data available speaks to expected impacts and outcomes. Nevertheless, some fairly clear conclusions can be drawn from what is known.

`The first collection of information is the January 30, 2009 report `Impact of School Resource Officers (which is what police officers in schools are called by staff) prepared apparently by School Board staff. It is attached. The report looks at the first semester (September to December) in 2007 with the same period in 2008, and compares certain activities in schools with officers (SRO schools) and in the whole system, apparently including SRO schools.

`The comparisons are summarized on page six of the report, and what is remarkable is that apart from the number of lockdowns, there are no important or significant differences between the two categories of schools. In neither category of school did the number of weapons change to any great degree although firearms and knives increased a bit in SRO schools. Incidents of trespass and lockdown decreased across the whole system, although lockdowns doubled in SRO schools.

`At best, one can conclude that, if this report focuses on the significant factors to measure, then having police officers in schools had very little impact.

`Perhaps these were not the best factors to measure the impact of police presence. Maybe one should have been looking instead at perceived safety of students and teachers.

`Regarding perceptions of safety, the 2008 Environmental Scan released by the Toronto police, sums up the matter:

Perhaps the best indicator of school safety is students perception of safety in and around the school  between seven and nine in ten students reported feeling safe in and around schools. (page 91) The report goes on to cite a 2007 survey by Toronto police that 86 per cent of Toronto students in Grade 7 through 12 felt very or reasonably safe in and around their school at any time of day. (page 91.)

`The same report notes that with the exception of sexual assaults, all crimes on school property fell by an average of 8 per cent from 2006 to 2007, and total crimes fell by almost 12 per cent since 1998. (page 90.) The report also notes that the zero tolerance policy and other policies recently adopted may have resulted in more incidents being reported to police and therefore distorting the data (pages 90  1) so that the decrease in crime would have been even more significant. These changes occurred without officers being posted to schools.

`On the basis of this information, it is fair to conclude that posting officers in schools has not resulted in any noticeable positive change.

`This has been an expensive experiment. The cost to the public of a single police officer is about $100,000 a year, so the total cost to the public of posting 20 officers in schools is about $2 million a year. We would argue that without more convincing data, it makes no sense to continue this experiment. Both the Police Services Board and the School Board have better ways of spending this money.
TPAC has asked to address each Board. Dates have yet to be set for this to happen.

2. The effectiveness, or not, of police cameras

At the March 30 meeting of the Police Services Board, a report signed by the chief looked at police use of closed circuit cameras (CCTV). For about six months in 2008, police experimented with about 20 cameras in five parts of the city  in the Entertainment District, at Yonge and Dundas, Sherbourne and Dundas, and in several areas of public housing concentration. The $2 million cost was paid for by the provincial government. In most cases it seems that the police engaged in `live monitoring, that is police watched the cameras in real time rather than simply looking at tapes after the fact in cases where crimes had occurred for which they wished to secure data.

The police report was lengthy (more than 100 pages) with data regarding each area, and it says an independent audit of the data concluded that `the level of crime decreased in three of the five deployment areas. The report also argued that videos provide useful evidence for police in securing convictions.

Accordingly, the report recommended that police continue to use CCTV to both reduce crime and apprehend offenders.

But a letter surfaced at the Board meeting from Professor Rosemary Gartner of the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto. Carefully reviewing the police evidence, she concluded that the data did not support a finding that calls for service had been reduced in areas where cameras were mounted. In cases where there were reductions, she said they could not be distinguished from reductions that would occur by chance. She wrote `I would conclude there is no strong or consistent evidence that the presence of CCTV reduces calls for service.

The Board decided not to approve continuation of the CCTV program until a further report was available responding to Gartners criticisms. Further, it stated that the chiefs report should respond to the following questions:
1) What impact does CCTV have on crime reduction in the three areas?
2) Does CCTV reduce crime or diffuse and disperse crime?
3) Is CCTV effective only when there is real time monitoring?
4) What factors improve the evidentiary value of data from CCTV?
5) Does the presence of CCTV have any impact on a communitys feeling of safety?

The five questions are clearly important  albeit difficult - to answer. Other questions also come to mind. Should police own the information they tape, or can others get it and use it as evidence? Do cameras impose higher costs on police?

No date has yet been set for these reports to come forward to the Board.

3. Crime statistics across the country

Statistics Canada has come forward with a new crime index, one measuring `crime severity. It was developed in conjunction with policing officials and others, and it generally puts more weight on serious crime and less weight on less serious crime. It notes that the traditional crime rate, which simply records each crime, is loaded with high-volume, less-serious offences, such as mischief and minor thefts.

Using this new index, Stats Can concludes that for the decade 1998  2007, crime severity fell by about 20% during the decade. It says the 10-year decline was driven by a 40% drop in break-ins. It says the traditional crime rate also shows a drop for that decade only by 15 per cent.

It also concludes that `Among Canada's three largest census metropolitan areas, crime was less serious overall in Toronto in 2007 than in either Montréal or Vancouver.

`Canada's largest metropolitan area, Toronto, had a Police-reported Crime Severity Index of 65.6 in 2007 (using 2006 as the base of 100), well below the national average of 94.6 and the lowest of all 27 census metropolitan areas.

Montreal had an overall index of 94.3 while Vancouver's overall index was 128.5, well above the national average and sixth highest of all metropolitan areas.

For further detail, go to the Stats Can web site,

4. Schertzer case appealed

The last Bulletin (No. 46), referred to the story in the April issue of Toronto Life about detective John Schertzer and his colleagues. The story noted that the charges against the officers were dismissed by the court because it had taken them too long to come forward. The Crown has since appealed this decision, and a hearing is scheduled for late August.

5. Love those Danish police

Do you think you deserve to be hugged in a friendly way by a police officer? It seems possible in Denmark, according to the short video found at http://www.fordivielskerdig.dk/

6. Subscribe to the Bulletin

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this Bulletin, please send a note to info@tpac.ca with the instructions in the subject line or in the text of the message. Our e-mail list is confidential and will not be made available to others. There is no charge for the Bulletin. Our website is http://www.tpac.ca.

Please circulate this Bulletin to friends and colleagues who might share an interest in policing. We appreciate your comments or suggestions for stories which should be sent to info@tpac.ca .

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Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
E-mail: info@tpac.ca