Neighbourhood Watch Brampton is putting Brampton’s elected municipal politicians on notice that they are failing to address community safety and well-being of residents. The purpose of every level of government in Canada is to first protect the safety, security and well-being of its residents. This elected council has no record of creating a safer city and has shown no interest in the well-being of residents at a city level.
Rather, by actively causing the closure of the Brampton Safe City Association in June 2015, this council has taken the city backwards and must be held accountable for the city’s increasing violent crimes, increased gang activity, growing concerns about human sex trafficking of our young people, lack of affordable housing, poverty, homelessness, and haphazard and selective community engagement to missing persons reports to name a few. Safe cities require municipal governments to provide leadership so that we don’t put all of society’s failings on the shoulders of police and law enforcement.
As the volunteer Program Manager over the last year for the Neighbourhood Watch Brampton program, I have personally engaged with this council and city staff to support residents who have experienced crime and want their streets to be safer. Unfortunately, at every turn, political gamesmanship has held back our volunteer efforts. Council and staff appear to be working in concert to do whatever they can to obstruct a successful resident run program that is both effective and self-funded.
Why would politicians obstruct and not help to break down barriers for a proven program?
It is not in their personal interests. After our team spent 6 months to resurrect Neighbourhood Watch in 2016, councillors created a new Brampton Safety Advisory Committee to oversee safety initiatives in the city. We found the timing of this committee to be suspect as it should have been created a year and a half earlier when the city suffocated the prior Brampton Safe City Association. City politicians appear to be working only to improve the optics of their failure to address community safety.
We approached the city in January 2017 when the new committee was being discussed to make a very simple request for street signage. The success of a traditional Neighbourhood Watch program relies on street signage and we wanted the city to install and cover the cost of signs similar to how the program was being run previously in Brampton, and how the program continues to be run in Mississauga. It has now been over a year and a staff report is about to be tabled to the Brampton Safety Advisory committee that denigrates our program and recommends that we apply to the city’s Community Grant program for funding. This is counter to the committee’s own mandate, which specifically mentions supporting initiatives such as Neighbourhood Watch.
The city’s report made passing mention of our signage request and did not directly respond to it. Rather, the report incorrectly assumed that our program was in need of city funds. We did not ask for money from the city. We asked for the city to provide signage directly on streets that had qualified for them. We were open to putting rules and regulations around this process. We estimated the first year signage cost to be $2,500. The city’s report fails to even make an estimate of the signage costs, even though the city has its own sign making and installation team.
Our opinion is that the Brampton Safety Advisory Committee as currently constructed exists for the personal political gain of the councillors that sit on it and it has accomplished nothing in the past year. The city staff who authored the signage report should be brought in front of council and asked if any council members had input or interfered with the report recommendations. The committee should be disbanded and city staff should report on the costs that the committee has incurred in hiring a new city employee to support the committee, for the Manager of Emergency Services to take a year in getting back to our signage request, for the administrative costs for city staff to participate during meetings, preparing agendas and filling citizen roles, and for upcoming costs to join national associations and marketing programs that have no impact on day to day life in the city.
Safe cities require municipal governments to provide leadership so that we don’t put all of society’s failings on the shoulders of police and law enforcement.
Neighbourhood Watch Brampton is moving on as well. We no longer view the City of Brampton and city councillors as partners in crime prevention. We have redesigned our program with this assumption and residents will see some changes going forward, including the option to purchase property signage. We are also moving forward with our plans to create a Safe City Network and will be inviting organizations and groups that play a role in building a more prosperous city to participate.