We should all get to know our neighbours

Neighbourhood Watch Brampton delegated at the July 31, 2019 meeting of the Brampton Community Safety Advisory Committee. Here is what we said:

Neighbourhood Watch Brampton at its core is a community engagement and crime prevention education program. We help residents build more connected neighbourhoods.

Neighbourhood Watch Brampton is one of a number of programs run by Brampton Focus Community Media, our umbrella non-profit organization that was registered four years ago. Brampton Focus also runs Harmonize.ca, a provincially funded diversity and inclusion awareness program. We are also developing Seniorstownhall.ca, a federally funded program for seniors to help seniors across the city with information about issues that affect them. In addition, we provide community media engagement for other non-profit groups and causes that can’t afford traditional media coverage or expensive ads. We live stream and cover events to help our residents reach a larger audience. 

Along with producing hundreds of informational videos, content and townhalls, we have live streamed the Brampton Santa Claus Parade for 3 consecutive years, one year through a partial blackout, organized and executed the City Building Mayoral Debate at the Rose Theatre last Fall at 100% of our cost and free to residents. The community media work we do is all possible by dedicated volunteers, community sponsors and organizations, and student interns who we pay through the federal Canada Summer Jobs grants program.

Some of our interns are here now and another team is assisting with the city’s Nurturing Neighbourhoods program at the Flower City Seniors Rec Centre. We have allocated our interns primarily in community building initiatives including with the City of Brampton through their Vision 2040 Nurturing Neighbourhood initiative, although we had hoped to start implementing our Neighbourhood Watch roll-out plan since June. 

The best way to learn about the program is to join it. There is a tablet going around where you can easily do just that. We are still working out some technology issues, so you will receive the first email tomorrow.

The security and privacy of your contact information is paramount to us. It will not be used for anything other than communication by Neighbourhood Watch Brampton for neighbourhood and city issues. Our plan is to enhance the current program, especially with on-boarding videos to involve more community members and in multiple languages. We will start with Punjabi as this has been a key request from the community and it is also the most common non-official language spoken at home by residents.

Among us are engaged and active community advocates that have worked with us for years now. I’ll highlight Ivan Macri who has consistently volunteered in his community to make our city better. When we first met, Ivan was already doing what our program tries to do across the city. He had organized his neighbourhood and was sharing advice, content and supporting his neighbours in any way he could. We encouraged Ivan to complete the Peel Police Crime Prevention Academy and our team is excited to have Ivan’s input and help again.

And Nikki Cedrone. Nikki stepped up to launch Neighbourhood Watch Snelgrove and loved the program so much, she is now on our Board overseeing it. This is what Neighbourhood Watch Brampton is all about… finding and empowering the Ivan’s and the Nikki’s across the city to make our neighbourhoods better.

Earlier this month, by an 11-0 vote, council approved to fund Neighbourhood Watch Brampton for a 6-month expansion, with a funding grant of up to $150,000.  Our goal is to ensure the success of this program and are working closely with staff to be transparent with costs and value for money. We are taxpayers as well.

In Mississauga, their Safe City Program works with a budget of over $500,000, supported by both their city and our Region to compliment the services of Peel Police. Our city has failed for the past 4 years, until now, to organize investment in a community crime prevention program.  This is why the Mayor of Mississauga is constantly promoting her city as the Safest Big City in Canada, where fortune 500 companies come to invest.

Safe cities need a positive self-image. Do we have that? We certainly have all of the ingredients for success.

We are in an era of provincial downloading. Yet crime prevention education and engagement is a municipal funding responsibility that has been off the municipal budget for 4 years and that Brampton Focus Community Media has exclusively supported. 

We fully expect the program and how it is administered to evolve. The program as currently designed is nimble, efficient and effective in crime prevention education, but it requires an unbelievable amount of volunteer support. And this is unsustainable without external funding.

A few vocal critics are on the attack and actively working against us. Not surprising, non of them bothered to be here today. We challenge all of them to create a better program. One which is self-funded for 3 years and can grow after that without any municipal investment. Because that is what they advocate.

The budget included in your agenda package is a working plan based on experience running our non-profit program, condensed to a 6-month plan that was to have started in June 2019. We have already adjusted the plan and the deliverables based on where we are now, which is 3 weeks away from having our students go back to school.

We invite members of this committee and attendees to join Neighbourhood Watch Brampton. We also encourage every Councillor to invite us to events that you will be hosting over the next 5 months. 

Neighbourhood Watch is an investment in:

  • the fabric of our community
  • an investment in the positive profile and optics of a vibrant and welcoming Brampton
  • an investment in the safety and connectivity of our residents in a grass roots all encompassing and engaging way that has yet to be realized 

And it is an investment in the positive future of our great City as we bring together residents of all background, faiths, languages to take Brampton to the next step, based on safety and motivating neighbourhoods who see this as a call to action of those “who watch,… and care” about our great city of Brampton.

We should all get to know our neighbours, and make OUR city the safest in Canada.  Are you in?

Canada’s remarkable generosity in memory of Riya

Only three weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day, Riya Rajkumar was celebrating her 11th birthday in Peel Region. It is a time in the life of a young girl when they still hold on to childhood fairytales and see only the goodness in people. Sadly, for Riya, it would be her last day in this world as she suffered a horrible fate that continues to grip many parents in the city.

Peel Police continues to investigate. Many officers have told us how this murder has also affected them personally. As a community, we want to remember Riya’s innocence, rather than sort out what transpired or try to understand the actions of her father.

Riya inspired many in the community. She was remember through public vigils in Mississauga and Brampton, and with tokens of sympathy left by many who never knew her. As a community, over 1320 people from across Canada donated at the request of our Neighbourhood Watch Brampton family. The number of people that contributed and left messages of support far outshines the number of complaints and calls to 911 about the late night Amber alert that was issued across Ontario. A touching tribute was left by one of Riya’s classmates on the donor wall:

“I will miss u. All of your friends will miss u. I had fun with you. You will always be remembered. RIP Riya”

Earlier this week, Nikki Cedrone with the assistance of Peel Police met with Riya’s mom. Nikki presented a cheque for $40,650 on behalf of all donors as a gesture to help provide financial relief. We share her grief and are thankful for the incredible outpouring of support.

Thank you Brampton. Thank you Mississauga. Thank you Canada.

City lowers flags to half mast for 11 year old Riya Rajkumar

Residents in Brampton, Peel Region and across Ontario are in shock today after events over the past 24 hours ended tragically in the death of 11 year old Riya Rajkumar in a Brampton home. The announcement of Riya’s death early this morning followed an Amber Alert that was issued around midnight.

The Amber Alert asking for public assistance in locating a grey Honda vehicle resulted in tips that lead police to a high risk takedown of the suspect in the Orillia area. The suspect and victim’s father, Roopesh Rajkumar was arrested.

Many mobile users apparently not familiar with the emergency notification system called 9-1-1 complaining about the late night notification.

Ward 1/5 Councillor Rowena Santos spoke with us earlier this morning after receiving an update from the acting Chief of Police…

Mayor Brown issued a statement later this afternoon stating:

On behalf of the Members of Brampton City Council, I want to express my shock by the tragic development that happened in Brampton last night. This is a horrific and senseless loss of life of an 11 year old child.

I have spoken to Acting Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord about this isolated incident. I want to thank citizens who responded to the Amber Alert. Tips led the Ontario Provincial Police to apprehend the suspect in Oro-Medonte. I am confident Peel Regional Police will do a thorough investigation of this death.

My thoughts are with the Rajkumar family and friends. I know our community will provide support to this family. All City of Brampton facilities will lower their flags to half mast in honour of Riya.

Early reports indicate that Riya went to school in Mississauga and was with her father in Brampton on Thursday afternoon. Riya’s mother called police when Riya was not returned by her father later in the evening.

Neighbourhood Watch Brampton has starting a community fund that will be offered to the family to help with funeral costs for Riya. You can donate here:

Riya Rajkumar Funeral Fund

ALERT: Lexus and Toyota SUV owners

York Regional Police issued an alert today after 81 Lexus and Toyota sport utility vehicles (SUV) were stolen over the past year from residential driveways. The majority of these thefts have occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.

The targeted vehicles include newer model Lexus RX350, Lexus GX460, Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Highlanders. These vehicles are in high demand overseas and after they are stolen, they’re placed into shipping containers and for the most part, sent to North Africa. These vehicles also have no tracking capability from the manufacturer or dealership, making recovery difficult once the vehicle is stolen.

Thieves have been using tools like screwdrivers to gain access into the driver or passenger doors, while ensuring not to set off alarms. Once inside, an electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogram the factory setting, is connected to a port below the dashboard and programs the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them. Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away. The entire process only takes between 10 to 20 minutes.

Investigators are asking owners of these types of vehicles to consider the following safety tips to help prevent their vehicles from being stolen:

  • If possible, park your vehicle in a locked garage, as the majority of the vehicles have been stolen from driveways
  • Place a second vehicle behind your Lexus or Toyota SUV in the driveway.This obstacle acts as a physical barrier that will make the thieves continue past your residence and look for an easier target
  • Use a steering wheel lock. It will also act as a visible deterrent that can be used on the vehicle overnight making thieves reconsider stealing your vehicle
  • Install a lock on the data port. This simple device can be purchased online and blocks access to the computer port where the thieves gain access to reprogram the vehicle’s keys.
  • Invest in an aftermarket global positioning system (GPS) tracker or have one installed by the dealer. This will not prevent theft, but may assist in recovery of the vehicle and your belongings
  • Consider purchasing a quality video surveillance system. Ensure your cameras are properly placed and functioning for day and night time use. Familiarize yourself with the operation of the system so it can be reviewed and accessed immediately

Not a Neighbourhood Watch Brampton member? Sign-up is easy and free. Join Now.

Brampton Poised to Make Decision on Retail Cannabis

The City of Brampton and its new city council has been busy engaging with residents on how to move forward with the Province’s looming deadline of January 22nd. Councillors must decide on opting in or out of retail cannabis stores in the city. Nikki Cedrone, Chair of Neighbourhood Watch Brampton commented at the city’s Retail Cannabis Townhall on January 10th (see text below). Residents are encouraged to have their say on the city’s website.

The Province has given municipalities until January 22nd to “opt-in” and allow retail establishments that can legally sell recreational cannabis. The City of Mississauga has already opted out until their city council can examine how the storefronts are rolled out elsewhere across the province. The City of Toronto has opted in. Cities will be given the opportunity to opt-in again at a later date.

25 retail licenses were recently award through a lottery process run by the Provincial government. These early licensees have been given no later than April 1st to open their stores. Cannabis is legal in Canada and can already be purchased online in Ontario at the Ontario Cannabis Store.

– – – – –

Public comments from Neighbourhood Watch Brampton on upcoming retail cannabis decision expected to be made my city council on January 21st:

Good evening.

My name is Nikki Cedrone and I am the chair of Neighbourhood Watch Brampton, a volunteer, community run organization formed 2 years ago by Brampton Focus Community Media to involve and connect citizens in community safety, crime prevention and community well-being.

Several months ago, we engaged with residents and businesses with our Tuesday Townhall online series. We provided information about the upcoming cannabis legislation and informed about issues in the workplace as well as the implications for municipalities.

We also engaged residents about this topic at our Neighbourhood Watch Meetings throughout Brampton this past summer. The general feedback from these informed residents was that:

  1. Cannabis is now a legal reality in Canada and cannot be ignored
  2. Cannabis is already being distributed through illegal channels in the city including neighbourhood streets and schools
  3. Cannabis is already being supplied legally online to Brampton residents
  4. More municipal support should be geared to substance abuse and addiction to other more dangerous controlled substances that are at epidemic levels in many parts of the city
  5. Opting out of cannabis retail stores would result in Brampton residents going to nearby municipalities to meet their needs
  6. Opting in could bring economic benefits to the city and reduce distribution through illegal channels

A majority of residents through our qualitative assessment were in favour of retail cannabis stores in Brampton.

However, concerns were raised about the level of preparedness of law enforcement, schools and educators, bylaw offices, and workplaces.

As a mother of 4 boys and someone who knows full well about the increasing rise in crime recently across Brampton, I have concerns in regard to opting in:

  • How will Brampton ensure that enforcement is implemented with regards to smoking in restricted areas? How much will it cost for enforcement? Do we have a policy for nuisance and odor by-law?
  • Does the city have regulations for youth protection with regards to age verification, id, advertising and marketing?
  • Does the city have regulations drawn up with the regulation of homegrown plants and how to properly compost residential and industrial cannabis plants?

Neighbourhood watch Brampton believes that retail cannabis stores in the city is not an option, it is an eventuality. The question that needs to be answered is do we want to be a first adopter and the benefits that could come with that, or should we follow Mississauga with a wait and see policy so that we avoid the pitfalls of what appears to legislation that is a work in progress.

Neighbourhood Audits Underway in Brampton

There is a bold new Vision for Brampton and it was created with the input of over 23,000 Bramptonians. The Brampton 2040 Vision is a vision for the people, by the people. The document reflects the hopes and dreams of Bramptonians for the future of their city.

One of the 28 actions in the Brampton 2040 Vision calls for a Complete Neighbourhood Audit Program to systematically update and revitalize existing neighbourhoods to ensure the full provisions for sustainable living. With direction from City Council, three neighbourhoods (old, middle aged, and relatively newly developed) were chosen to pilot the Complete Neighbourhood Audit program to better understand the feasibility of the program in the future.

The Bramalea (E-Section), Gore-Castlemore and Sheridan College neighbourhoods were chosen as the pilot locations for the Complete Neighbourhood Audit program, now toted as the Nurturing Neighbourhoods program.

What makes a neighbourhood great?

One of the fundamental elements is a nourishing setting where neighbours of all ages and abilities can work, play, live, learn, shop and interact with one another. Through the Nurturing Neighbourhoods pilot program we want residents to both celebrate and be critical of their neighbourhoods in order to develop present and future solutions to local concerns and garner a sense of pride in where they live. This pilot program is about putting people first in neighbourhoods and understanding what currently works and what can be improved to increase the collective quality of life.

While 1 of 3 Neighbourhood Pilots have commenced in the Bramalea (E-Section) Neighbourhood on September 15th, over the next 5 weeks residents and community members are invited to participate in neighbourhood walks, mental mapping sessions and workshops in 2 other communities:

  • Gore-Castlemore Neighbourhood (October 27th)
  • Sheridan College Neighbourhood (November 11th)

While an abbreviated version of the Nurturing Neighbourhoods program will ensue, the eventual outcomes of a wholesome program will result in the development of a detailed action plan for Brampton neighbourhoods city wide, should council make the program permanent after the pilot.

The Nurturing Neighbourhoods program is a great way to get to know your neighbours, take an active role in community building and help us shape a better Brampton.

If you, or someone you know, reside in any of the neighbourhoods mentioned above, or would simply like to learn more about the Nurturing Neighbourhoods pilot program, please contact:

Tristan Costa
(Email: tristan.costa@brampton.ca)

If you haven’t already, check out the Vision online at brampton.ca/2040vison. Have you heard we’re on Instagram too? Go ahead and follow us (@brampton2040).

World of Jazz Festival returns for 2nd year

Following the success of the inaugural World of Jazz Festival in 2017, organizers are returning to Downtown Brampton on September 7 and 8th with an even bigger festival.

Neighbourhood Watch Brampton will be at the event on Saturday afternoon near the main stage (with Brampton Focus and Brampton Voters). Drop by, say hello, and let us know how we can improve the program to respond to the escalation of crime in the city.

This year, multi-JUNO nominated pianist Michael Kaeshammer and his band will perform a mix of boogie-woogie, jazz, and New Orleans inspired music on opening night on Friday (Sept 7) at the Rose Theatre.

On Saturday (Sept 8) The Yonge Kings, an 8-piece New Orleans styled brass band kick off the day at noon, grooving and shaking their way through the Farmers Market towards Garden Square, which will feature 2 stages with music programmed from 1:30-11pm, the Long &McQuade Zone in Vivian Lane from 1-8pm, Dinner Jazz at J.Red & Co. from 7-10pm, and the very popular late night jam sessions, featuring house bands on both floors at Wendel Clark’s Classic Grill and Bar, starting at 11pm. All of Saturday’s programming is free to the public.

This year, the World of Jazz Festival will host a total of 14 ensembles, featuring more than 90 musicians crossing 3 stages over 2 days, including over 50% of the ensembles as either originally from or residing in Brampton, as well as showcasing a wide variety of jazz interpretations, including zydeco, blues, funk, jazz fusion, latin jazz, gypsy jazz, west and east Indian fusions, straight ahead swinging standards, and even tap dancers at the jam session

According to B-Jazzed co-founder and Artistic Director Carmen Spada, all of these statistics add up to precisely the event that they are striving to create. “The word “jazz” has been interpreted and defined in many different ways over the last century, and a lot of that has been due to multicultural influences on the music due to its dissemination all over the world. That is the precedent that we have built our festival on, especially here in Brampton, where multiculturalism is the fabric of our city.”

In addition to the festival, B-Jazzed has curated a schedule of performances and education throughout the city this year, including Jazz @ J. Red & Co. on Sunday evenings, Joe’s Jazz Jam at Wendel Clark’s on Friday evenings, BL Studio Series featuring monthly recording studio clinics at the Chinguacousy Branch Library, and the upcoming Sessions @ Studio 2, featuring some of Canada’s best jazz musicians in a monthly concert series starting in October, in partnership with The Rose Theatre.

“The amount of opportunities that we are creating for professional, hobbyist, and student musicians in the City of Brampton, as well as the enthusiastic audiences which support them, is something that B-Jazzed is proud to have championed and be delivering on a weekly basis,” says Joe Asensio, B-Jazzed co-founder and Executive Director.
On piano, vocals and accordion, Spada will appear on the JN Realty Mainstage, backed by the 16-piece Toronto Jazz Orchestra. The Garden Square lineup also includes 2018 JUNO nominee and Grand Prix de Montreal Jazz Festival winner Brad Cheeseman, the highly energetic and entertaining 12-piece salsa orchestra Salsotika, multi-award winning young phenom Avery Raquel, Brampton’s Andrew Kay’s Cosmic Ship, blending jazz and East Indian rhythms, and finally ending the night with the soulful and grooving blues and funk tunes of Blackburn.

As Garden Square closes at 11pm, Wendel Clark’s begins its late night jazz jam, featuring the Frank Adriano Quartet on the ground floor, and Travis Knights and Jazz United on the upper floor. All are welcome to bring an instrument and play along with the bands. Knights is a Brampton resident and internationally acclaimed tap dancer, passionate about preserving the history of jazz, and will be leading dancers through songs from the Great American Songbook, backed by a fantastic band.

Vivian Lane will host local music vendor Long & McQuade featuring various musical instruments available for demonstration as well as student performances and interactive clinics taught by their instructors. Kid-friendly and family fun, where visitors can touch, play and learn new instruments.

An important part of the festival will be giving back to the community. B-Jazzed has partnered with Knights Table to run a Food Drive in Garden Square on Saturday, and is encouraging all attendees to enjoy a day of free entertainment while donating a non-perishable food item.

Neighbourhood Watch News – 2nd Print Edition

There is no secret that Brampton lacks media coverage to keep residents informed. That’s why we’ve been developing the Neighbourhood Watch Newspaper.  We’ve been busy this summer working with residents across the city to develop hyper-local initiatives to make neighbourhoods more connected, vibrant and safe.

Download Neighbourhood Watch News

For residents that will be receiving home delivery, we are also testing out a new custom designed door hanger. Neighbourhoods will be receiving a custom insert inside with information about their local neighbourhood watch program, including a community website to share information and events. The insert is part of a newly designed “Know Your Neighbour” card that encourages neighbours to meet and exchange contact information. Not a member? Join and help your street participate in the program…

Join Neighbourhood Watch (Free)