Blue Line


July 16, 2013  By Glenn De Caire

612 words – MR

A wrap-around social service solution

by Glenn De Caire

She called police 15 times in nine week, threatened suicide six times, hung around the downtown exhibiting reportedly disruptive behaviour and was banned from the downtown mall but kept returning.


Two of our officers spent 50 hours dealing with Ann (not her real name); obviously, our response wasn’t working.

Another client, “Ray,” is on our system for more than 70 incidents since 2006. He panhandles downtown to pay for his drug addiction, is very aggressive and can be violent.

Every urban centre has many people like Ann and Ray. Who should people call to deal with them? Police? Emergency or social services?

If someone is in distress or being disruptive and store or office managers call to have them removed, we must respond. The situation dictates the response.

Police have to issue tickets but they will not pay them. We charge them criminally, knowing they will not show up for their court date. We call the paramedics to take them to hospital but know we will have to do it again once they’re released, sometimes during the same 12-hour patrol shift. This is neither effective nor sustainable

This is an issue in Hamilton and, I respectfully submit, every urban centre in Canada. Hamilton Police Service (HPS), in partnership with the city’s neighbourhood development strategies, urban renewal section and paramedic service, have done something about it through the Social Navigator Project (SNP), part of our anti-violence ACTION strategy. The results? Improved outcomes and better use of resources.

Introduced in 2012, the program’s mandate is to reduce contacts with repeat offenders and get them the appropriate care that best serves their needs.

The social navigator is a full-time paramedic who works very closely with ACTION officers to help repeat offenders they encounter in their deployment zones. The navigator works with a variety of social agencies to help provide the appropriate care. Ann was re-connected with her case worker, for example, and Ray was sent for addictions counseling.

SNP is supported by the court system, with some repeat offenders being mandated to participate as part of their release conditions.

Hamilton continually evaluates the SNP for impact and effectiveness. A report presented at the Hamilton Police Services Board April meeting showed that, as of February 2013, 81 individuals have been navigated, with 43 of them out of the program for more than six months. A comparison was done looking at their behaviour six months prior and six month post their involvement with the SNP.

There were 63 offences prior to individuals being navigated (29 post navigation) and 103 mental health calls in the six months before they became involved in the program, often leading to hospital assessments. This number was reduced to only eight in the six months following their involvement.

Eight of the successfully navigated clients were classified as aggressive panhandlers, meaning they had at least five aggressive panhandling charges prior to joining the program. Before SNP involvement these individuals were issued an average of one ticket every nine days. After completing the program, this dropped to an average of one ticket every 76 days.

The SNP is a made-in-Hamilton solution re-connecting people in need with the services and support they require. This wrap-around social service solution positively impacts people’s lives and our community and responds to their complex issues. It’s a new approach to breaking the cycle of repeat offenders which is improving outcomes and optimizing resources.


Glenn De Caire
Chief of Police
Hamilton Police Service

The Hamilton Police Service received the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police 2013 Crime Prevention Award for its Social Navigator Project on June 25, 2013.

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