NC students present community policing findings at Niagara Safety Village

Two groups of Advanced Law Enforcement students who were selected to present their community policing projects at the Community Safety Village March 25 stand in front of the Pavillion. On left, Team Action, including Drew Harrison, Matt McDonald and Jesse Greene. On right, The 905, including Rebecca Downie, Chanel Siebner and Brandon Daniel (absent: Nicole Dupont).

For Advanced Law Enforcement and Investigation students in Cindy McDonald’s class, Applied Community Policing isn’t just the name of one of their courses, it’s something they now have hands-on experience with, thanks to a special project which has now put some of them in the spotlight.

Two groups of students from the program, who are scheduled to graduate this spring, had an opportunity to present findings from their class project, each focusing on a different Welland neighbourhood, at the Niagara Safety Village on March 25.

Their projects – one on the Chippawa Park neighbourhood and the other on the East Main Street area – were part of their Applied Community Policing Course which kicked off last fall. For months, students worked in teams to address a local community problem in a specific area of the Niagara region identified by the NRP. Each team conducted a study of the community and developed possible solutions based on the principles of community policing.

The two groups who were selected to present on March 25 – Team Action and The 905 – were among the top in their class and were asked by the Niagara Regional Police Service to present at the community meeting.

Team Action: East Main Street

Team Action, who took on the East Main Street area, walked the neighbhourood, took photos, liaised with police officers, contacted homeless shelter and dug up statistics from the City of Welland and the NRP. They presented several recommendations, including a tax incentive program to help businesses invest into their storefronts to help prevent criminal activity; an initiative to keep buildings graffiti free; increased patrols of the bars in the area to help deter drug crime from reestablishing; a new design solution to prevent people from climbing up the Main Street bridge, which can result in injury or death; and community get-togethers to highlight services available in the area.

“As future police officers, it’s exposed us to how important community policing an mobilization is, and how we can make a difference as police officers to help make Welland a more attractive destination,” said Jesse Green, a resident of Welland who enjoyed learning more about the history of the city and how the once thriving area has progressed.

“For me, a big part of the project was learning to learn as a group, to collaborate ideas and come up with solutions together,” said Matt McDonald, a St. Catharines resident. “We’ve put a lot of hard work and time into this project and we’re very proud of what we’ve put together so we’re very excited to share it with people, especially those who can implement these ideas.”

The 905: Chippawa Park

The 905 team, which focused on Chippawa Park neighbourhood, looked at crime in the neighbourhood, particularly break-ins and home invasions.

The team researched how the neighbourhood has changed during the last 50 years. Not only have once-prominent Neighbourhood Watch programs disappeared, but neighbours are less familiar with one another. The team is recommending a volunteer-based program that would be run in the park one weekend per month run by NC students where the community would enjoy different activities and speakers.

“It’s a beautiful park but it gets really dark at night which provides easy access and a lot of concealment for criminals,” said Rebecca Downie of Fonthill. “Our recommendations are about bringing the neighbourhood closer together and showing that the park is used for good.”

The project proved to be a positive experience for the students. Brandon Daniel, a Welland resident who aims to pursue a job in the corrections field of policing, noted that he grew up near the park and it opened his eyes to what happens in the area.

“We placed ourselves in the shoes of a criminal at Chippawa park at night, and realized that it’s a perfect spot,” he said.

“Community policing is such a big part of policing. It’s about being out in the community and finding out what the issues are and what people are upset about it,” said Downie. “It was also a great opportunity to improve our communication and public speaking skills. Communication is key in policing.”

Importance of community policing

Professor Cindy McDonald noted this was the first time students have taken on this assignment in her course. Her class was divided into five teams which had to complete a written portion as well as a presentation in front of the NRP.

The top two teams, Team Action and The 905, had an opportunity to compete in front of the police chief and community members. Team Action members won, becoming the first recipients of Niagara Regional Chief Jeffery McGuire NRP award last fall.

While The 905 and Team Action presented at the Niagara Safety Village, she noted that students whose project focused on Merritt Island also had a chance to present their project at Welland City Council.

McDonald noted the importance of the project.

“The police have to work with the community in order to solve chronic disorder issues. It’s not just about arresting the bad guy, there’s much more to policing,” she said. “It’s important for to be a part of the community, to listen to the community, understand the community’s perceptions, and develop partnerships, and now the students understand that.”

She said that this was a large assignment for the students to take on and she was pleased with the results.

“I was really proud of them. They all worked really hard and it showed,” she said.

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