Crimefighting safety audits coming to Nanaimo neighbourhoods

Neighbourhood safety audits will be carried out in six areas of Nanaimo with the goal of reducing opportunities for crime and bringing in social agencies if needed.

Vancouver Island University’s fourth-year criminology students will work on the audits with the City of Nanaimo and the RCMP.

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While the initiative is awaiting final approval from the university, the goal is to start the audits in coming weeks, said Christy Wood, community policing co-ordinator.

Neighbourhoods in the first round include part of Harewood, downtown, the old city quarter, Newcastle, Brechin Hill and the city’s south end, she said. Residents of other areas have expressed interest and Woods expects they will be addressed in subsequent audits.

Each audit will involve 10 to 12 participants, including neighbourhood representatives, police and municipal officials such as city planners.

Typically, audits would include a tour of an area along a specific route, followed by a meeting, but in this case, the process may be virtual given pandemic concerns.

Wood plans to get the word out via neighbourhood associations and online community forums, telling citizens how they can share their views. Check for information or contact Woods at nanaimocpvolunteers.ca.

An online survey will allow people to identify challenges in their neighbourhoods, talk about how safe they feel and make suggestions, Wood said.

Audits aim to build relationships amongst residents and businesses to help everyone look out for each other, and to provide insight into a community.

Typically, they include an expert in crime prevention through environmental design, who looks at buildings and infrastructure in an area and offers suggestions for measures residents can take on their own properties, or ideas for ways the city can make the community safer. Social agencies could also be called in to help with a specific concern — for example, outreach services.

A report will be created after each safety audit.

Woods notes that the goal of safety audits isn’t to solve crimes, but to support communities to reduce crime.

The City of Nanaimo is also hoping for a provincially funded “situation table,” designed to bring together front-line staff from public safety, health and social services to identify vulnerable people and connect them with services in a co-ordinated and efficient way.

An application was submitted to the province last month for $30,000 to set up a situation table in Nanaimo.

RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien said Tuesday that the first three months of this year have put police on track to respond to 4,800 mental-health related calls in 2021.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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