TORONTO - City Police say they have their hands full in the ongoing battle against drug-related crime in the Gem City, but they have been making a dent in the problem, thanks to new tools in its arsenal, additional training for officers and a solid relationship with the community.
The result has been increased pressure on those dealing drugs or committing crimes related to drug activity in the city, a newfound sense of urgency among officers to arrest suspects and pre-emptive decisions made by city government to promote strategies to lesson drug activity, according to John Parker, city safety director.
"(The city) employed a strategy awhile ago that (crime prevention) was a shared responsibility," said Parker, adding the community needed "to have that trust in the police department. First we had to establish a relationship between the police department and make it more community-friendly. We started with lots of training, and we are continuing to do lots of training. The other side of that is people started to call the police with more tips (concerning crime)."
Mark J. Miller
TOOLS?IN?THE?ARSENAL — Patrolman Rick Parker, left, and Capt. Randy Henry of the Toronto Police Department show some of the crime- and drug-fighting tools in its arsenal. The department has a new-found urgency in partnering with the community to fight crimes in the Gem City related to drug abuse and activity.
Parker said citizens need to trust that if they offer confidential information to the police that it would stay confidential.
"Then came the partnerships we made to build with the community," said Parker, adding the city partnering with the city school district for the Bridgebuilders anti-drug program helped foster more education about the effects of drug abuse and prevention, as well as building trust between the city and citizens.
Parker also said the city's efforts to tear down dilapidated structures is having an anti-crime effect by not providing safe havens for drug abusers and dealers in abandoned structures.
"We've been firing on all cylinders," Parker continued. "We have a great relationship with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department and the Jefferson County Drug Task Force. I think what we're seeing now are the results of those strategies."
Parker said the idea is to attack the drug problem head on, making it known that drug-dealing and abuse won't be tolerated in Toronto. He said the public "might be seeing more names in the paper (related to drug offenses), but we're making a lot more arrests now before it becomes a bigger problem.
"Toronto really isn't any different than any other city when it comes to (drug-related crime)," continued Parker. "Everyone's now just taking a more practical approach."
Parker said the city's battle against drug-related offenses is never realistically going to go away. However, he said the city is determined to keep on the offensive.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who don't share the same moral values most of the people of Toronto have," Parker said. "We're going to keep up the pressure. This is a task that's never going to completely go away. But by using these tactics, we're going to make it more difficult for those who abuse or deal drugs to live here."
(Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)