Innovation and co-operation

Brett Corey
July 28, 2011
By Brett Corey
Effective patrol response and investigative strategies are the cornerstones of reducing and solving crime, helping to maintain Windsor as one of Canada’s safest communities. Many strategies rely on partnerships with local, national and international law enforcement agencies, enhanced by effective communication, leveraging funding sources and absolute commitment to co-operation and collaboration in pursuing safer communities. As a border community, Windsor recognizes and embraces the opportunities and challenges presented as North America’s busiest international gateway. The Windsor Police Service (WPS) has a citizen focused approach for local communities and is an active leader in detecting and investigating crimes without borders and other criminal activity affecting all Canadians.

Effective patrol response and investigative strategies are the cornerstones of reducing and solving crime, helping to maintain Windsor as one of Canada’s safest communities. Many strategies rely on partnerships with local, national and international law enforcement agencies, enhanced by effective communication, leveraging funding sources and absolute commitment to co-operation and collaboration in pursuing safer communities.

h3. International border

As a border community, Windsor recognizes and embraces the opportunities and challenges presented as North America’s busiest international gateway. The Windsor Police Service (WPS) has a citizen focused approach for local communities and is an active leader in detecting and investigating crimes without borders and other criminal activity affecting all Canadians.

The co-operation and collaboration among all levels of police services on both sides of the border has never been stronger. In 2009 the WPS led an international investigation into child luring as an Internet Child Exploitation initiative (ICE). Tremendous co-ordination and planning among local, state (Virginia) and national police services during the investigative stage led to a Windsor man being sentenced to 110 years in the US for luring a minor via the Internet and crossing international and state boundaries to commit a felony.

WPS officers helped initiate an international PWEU/ATF (Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit/Alcohol Tobacco Firearms) undercover investigation (Project Singer) of US firearms being exchanged for Canadian MDMA (ecstasy). Undercover officers from Canada (TPS) and the US worked side by side over many months on both sides of the border, their efforts culminating in the arrests of six individuals and seizure of 36 handguns, including several Mac11 and Tech 9s all destined for the streets of Toronto.

These successes were ensured by interagency co-operation and the support of organizational leaders in reducing jurisdictional barriers. Project Singer was chosen as a model for inter-agency co-operation and selected in 2010 to present its results in Washington before the US–Canada Cross Border Crime Forum Ministerial. Attendees – including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney Generals Eric Holder (US) and Rob Nicholson (Canada), Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and many justice and public safety leaders – were briefed on the project by ATF and WPS lead investigators.

Locally, the WPS recently engaged the neighbouring police services of LaSalle and Amherstburg in a joint forces investigation into street level drug traffickers. Within months, undercover officers made numerous purchases of illicit narcotics in all three jurisdictions. Shared resources and expertise were the key elements in this collaborative approach to obtaining positive results.

The investigations provide a glimpse of the expectations of a border city police service in the 21st century. The WPS has positioned itself to succeed in a complex future by securing the best technologies, embracing and leveraging partnerships (law enforcement and private), adopting best practices and committing to training and developing all employees.

h3. The turning point

For the first time, in May 2006, the WPS family experienced the murder of an on duty officer. S/Cst. John Atkinson was shot and killed as he approached two youths engaged in a drug transaction. Within hours the suspects were in custody and the shooter was later convicted of first degree murder. The effect of these events and the support from the broader community left a profound and enduring impact on the men and women of the service.

Over the ensuing 18 months, in response to Atkinson’s murder, a massive reorganization of investigative services took place. An infusion of personnel was organized into special teams, including major crimes, analysis branch, target base, DIGS (drugs, intelligence, guns and surveillance) and special victims. Respective mandates of each unit are distinct, however they share intelligence, expertise and human resources based on need.

A clear link was identified between illicit drugs, gangs and firearms as causal factors for violent crime. Repeat offenders, serial crimes, drugs and firearms became the focus of proactive investigations based on the intelligence-led policing model. Patrol response renewed its focus on strategic community based partnerships and targeted enforcement with the goal of problem solving to reduce crime and calls for service. The results have been dramatic.

h3. Crime reduced

Overall, total Criminal Code offences in Windsor have dropped 27 per cent since the 2007 investigative service reorganization. There were no homicides in 2010, despite a 50 year average of almost five a year. Motor vehicle thefts and break and enters are down 48 per cent and 35 per cent respectively since 2006. Enforcement of OIC release, court imposed bail conditions and other criminal offences have increased over the same five-year period by more than 10 per cent.

Effective patrol response, targeted enforcement and problem solving initiatives have also netted great results. There were only two fatal collisions in the city last year, down dramatically from the 10-year average of 6.2/year. Overall motor vehicle collisions per 1,000 population have fallen 21 per cent in the past five years and calls for service are down 14 per cent, despite a marginal increase in total population and a slow economy.

h3. New technologies

The WPS records management system was enhanced in 2009 with the Versaterm Data Mart (VDM) software module. Crime information is now updated every 10 minutes with newly aggregated data, allowing officers to isolate information and statistics and identify trends and modus operandi.

By leveraging the VDM success the WPS has created an application to integrate with an online mapping tool designed by Crime Reports. This allows the service to publish and aggregate crime data into maps and e-mail crime alerts and analytics to law enforcement and the general public.

An electronic ticketing project was launched in April, 2010. Developed with the assistance of the London Police Service and in partnership with court personnel for compliance and accountability, it improves efficiencies and reduces officer time requirements.

The WPS implemented new fingerprint technology (Canadian Criminal Real Time Identification Services), which uses “LiveScan”, capable of transmitting prints directly to the RCMP. This greatly improves efficiencies by reducing wait times for criminal records checks, despite a 25 per cent increase in requests over the past year.

The WPS continues to advance toward full electronic disclosure of all criminal court files. This massive project is contingent on co-operation and collaboration with the Ministry of the Attorney General and will address quality control issues and reduce inefficiencies associated with hard files.

h3. Community responsiveness

The WPS endeavors to be a professional, effective and accountable organization that upholds the human rights and dignity of all people, in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is committed to playing its part in making Windsor a community where everyone lives, works and visits in a safe, comfortable and inclusive environment.

As evidence, the service, Windsor Police Services Board, Ontario Human Rights Commission and Ontario Police College agreed on a Human Rights Project Charter (HRPC) in Feb. 2010 modeled after the Toronto Police HRPC, which concluded in May 2011.

The project’s mission is to support the service and board in their ongoing initiatives aimed at identifying, eliminating and preventing any possible discrimination in employment practices and service delivery to Windsor’s diverse community. This project will include such areas of concern as recruitment, selection and promotion, accommodation, accountability, training and public liaison.

The WPS actively participates in and remains committed to many charitable and community programs, providing resources, expertise and volunteerism. The annual Troy Klyn Memorial Law Enforcement Torch Run has been held for more than 25 years, contributing more than $1 million to Ontario Special Olympic programs. Officers also raise funds and organize Camp Brombal, which gives grade six students identified from the VIP Program a week-long camp experience. These students would not normally have an opportunity to attend summer camp.

h3. Partnering for effective police facilities

The WPS shares all four of its facilities with community partners and has fully embraced a unique integrated partnership model to serve the community.

The organization’s downtown headquarters, a full service facility incorporating a provincial courthouse, was very carefully designed to functionally integrate the many complex workings of both a contemporary law enforcement operation and public court facility.

The Major F. A. Tilston VC Armoury and Police Training Centre, on the city’s western periphery, is a first-of-its-kind in Canada partnership with the Department of National Defence (DND). Opened in June 2004, it houses the local military armoury and a comprehensive training facility for both the WPS and DND.

The Sandwich Community Police Station, located in the historic “Olde Sandwich Town” district of the city, houses the community services unit and includes a satellite office at the Children’s Safety Village of Windsor and Essex County. It is shared with the General Brock Public Elementary School, Sandwich branch of the Windsor Public Library and a child care facility.

The East End Community Patrol station, built in 1979 on the east side of the city, is the organization’s oldest facility. It is an innovative partnership with the private sector to provide comprehensive service delivery for those involved in vehicle collisions.

Identifying and engaging in strategic partnerships has been a key driver for operational and administrative success within the WPS for many years. As the uncertainties of the 21st century unfold, new and renewed partnerships will most certainly be the cornerstone of a co-ordinated Windsor police response.

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