By Lyonel Doherty
The communities of Oliver and Osoyoos are one step closer to enhanced public safety and crime prevention.
On Wednesday, principals of Global Network for Community Safety gave a presentation to members of the Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee (CSCP) in Oliver.
The discussion focused on “situation tables” that have made a difference on crime across Canada, and the fact that the CSCP wants to establish one in the South Okanagan or partner with Penticton’s CAST (Community Active Support Table).
Global Network consultant Norm Taylor said the key to success is a multi-agency, collaborative approach to intervention (providing support for people in crisis). Like CAST, these situation tables reach out to individuals facing acutely elevated risks. For example, someone suffering a mental health issue, drug addiction or homelessness.
Taylor said research on risk factors and social determinants of health lead to one conclusion: “What’s causing an awful lot of stress in people’s lives and disorder in a lot of communities is that the system is not very effective in reacting earlier enough and in a collaborative enough way to reduce risk.”
But this is what these situation tables have been able to do through a “triage” approach, he pointed out.
Taylor said one of the fundamental issues (challenges) with these models is people’s privacy.
“At a well-functioning table, very little information is shared, and it’s only shared on a by consent basis long enough to identify the needs.”
Taylor outlined how the intervention process works involving a non-enforcement door knock to ask the individual what services he or she may require. He said about 80 per cent of these engagements have resulted in an immediate welcome of assistance. That’s because law enforcers aren’t kicking down the door, but merely knocking and offering help.
Consultant Brent Kalinowski said after Prince Albert’s situation table began intervening, they started seeing a decline in the number of calls for service.
“We started seeing declines in violent crime (a 25-per cent reduction over a three-year average).”
The idea was to connect people with the help they needed before a crisis occurred.
“It’s a different way of doing business. Police aren’t going to need any more policemen to operate this model,” Kalinowski said.
He stated it will be a re-imagining of the workday where you band together with agency representatives and touch base with a family or individual needing support.
But committee member Michael Guthrie said he can envision some agencies being reluctant to get involved, particularly giving up information.
Committee member Pat Hampson said the other side of the coin is that the individual needing support has to have the desire to reach out for help.
“In our society it seems that nothing can happen unless the individual wants the help.”
Kalinowski said a lot of people want help and may initially turn it down, but the situation table makes the option available.
Sergeant Jason Bayda of the Osoyoos RCMP said a young lady came to him seeking help with her drug addiction and mental health issues. She eventually agreed to go to the hospital with him to seek treatment.
“But when we get to the hospital, there wasn’t a whole lot they were able to offer her.”
Bayda said the young woman was told to see her doctor first to get the proper medication. Or she could go to the walk-in clinic in Penticton. The only problem is she doesn’t have transportation to get there.
“So, they are kind of led down this path where they are given avenues to go there but they don’t have the tools to complete the task.”
That’s why Bayda sees the benefit of a situation table where he could refer people to get the help they need right away.
Sergeant Blaine Gervais of the Oliver RCMP said they were dealing with one lady whose behaviour (spitting on people) prompted two or three calls to police every day. He noted they tried to refer her to CAST but she left town.
Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff said what they need now is someone to get the group started here.
The committee discussed either partnering with CAST in Penticton or establishing their own situation table in the South Okanagan.
Kalinowski said it would cost approximately $34,000 to launch a situation table in this area. He added that a government grant would offset the cost.
Committee member Robert Halishoff said he has been in contact with local realtors with the idea of establishing a “Realty Watch” program in the community.
Under this program, realtors watch out for missing children, straying seniors (from care homes) and any suspicious activity in the neighbourhood.
Bayda welcomed this idea, saying the sooner they can get the information out on a missing person, the better.
Committee member Jim King cautioned the group about not duplicating the services offered by CAST in Penticton.
Bayda recommended coordinating with CAST on a collaborative basis.
“You have to remember that many of the resources are in Penticton (not here in Oliver and Osoyoos).”
McKortoff suggested having a community paramedic or somebody else attend the CAST meetings in Penticton, which “might give us a better idea of what we need.”