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Photo by Mike Pearson

Photo by Mike Pearson

Hamilton police chief speaks to members of the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Jan. 24 at the Powerhouse Restaurant.

Hamilton safer today than 2009, says De Caire

By Mike Pearson, News staff

His term as Hamilton’s police chief will soon come to an end, but Glenn De Caire remains mum on his future despite trumpeting the achievements made under his four-year tenure.

De Caire wasted no time promoting the crime reduction strategies of Hamilton police during a presentation to the Stoney Creek Chamber of Commerce last Friday at the Powerhouse Restaurant.

De Caire, who departs as chief at the end of this year, said higher visibility and strategic deployment have helped police reduce violent crime in Hamilton by 19 per cent from 2011 to 2012. The reduction represents the single biggest decrease in Canada among major urban centres, according to Statistics Canada.

Despite speculation that De Caire may return to Toronto, where he began his 34-year policing career, the outgoing chief would not comment on his plans.

“Right now I’m going to focus on the task at hand, which is protection of the people in Hamilton,” said De Caire.  “I’m not going to make any decisions about the future. I’m going to sit right here. I’m quite happy to work in Hamilton. I love Hamilton and the community and I love our police officers and the work that they’re doing for us.”

De Caire hinted at a possible career move in 2015, but did not elaborate.

“The commitment and focus and priority is right here in Hamilton. What will take place down the road will take place. I think maybe there’s somebody who has a plan for me and I’ll see what that is, but priority number one is right here in Hamilton,” said De Caire.

By shifting from problem oriented policing to strategic deployment, De Caire said Hamilton police have diffused disputes which would otherwise result in reoccurring calls for service. De Caire said the hotspot headway action strategy, which  places officers in the community wearing bright yellow coats, also acts as a proactive crime deterrent.

“We are producing public safety better than any other police service in our nation,” said De Caire.

Along with violent crime, De Caire said police have stepped up drug enforcement, resulting in more than 2,000 charges laid  in 2013. In his first year on the job in 2009, De Caire said police laid about 1,200 charges.

De Caire said those statistics include a 100 per cent increase in drug charges among youth aged 12–17, a figure he called disturbing. Many of those teens started with marijuana before moving on to harder drugs.

“That’s why we also do not support here in Hamilton the legalization of marijuana or the reduction of enforcement of marijuana because we know from all the research of medical professionals that it’s very much a gateway drug to other things,” said De Caire.

Along with more visible enforcement, De Caire said new strategies are helping to ensure police resources are not exhausted by re-arresting the same suspects.

Through an offender management strategy, police officers will visit the recently released inmates to help ensure their release conditions are met. De Caire said the program has seen an 89 per cent compliance rate.

Traffic collisions are also decreasing, said De Caire. In 2013, the city had 8,616 reported collisions, down from 11,800 collisions in 2003.

De Caire credits increased traffic enforcement, including a 54 per cent increase in tickets over the last four years, for the lower collision figures.

“We had the lowest number of collisions we’ve had in 47 years,” said De Caire.

De Caire admitted he received some push back from officers while launching the hotspot headway action strategy, but said the project has exceeded all expectations. The project included a unit of 40 officers from across the city who patrol on foot and bicycle, wearing the bright yellow jackets.

Downtown area robberies are down 60 per cent, said De Caire. Using  Concession Street as an example, De Caire pointed to a 47 per cent reduction in robberies and a 20 per cent drop in break and enters.

“There is a significant deterrence value in visibility,” said De Caire.

For problem neighbourhoods, where residents might fear speaking to police, De Caire said police horses are an effective ice-breaker to help foster a dialogue.

In 2009, police began mapping crime hot spots across the city, which identified high crime rates in the urban core. Since then, through strategic deployment, police have reduced those hot spots by the equivalent of 14 square kilometres.

“We can’t just patrol randomly, we need to patrol where the analysis tells us to be,” said De Caire.

While acknowledging that policing by geography doesn’t work, De Caire said suburban areas, such as Stoney Creek, have not suffered from lower police resources.

“There is never, ever an abandonment of any area in our city in order to support the downtown,” he said.

De Caire said the 2014 police budget process has been highly successful, with a proposed 2.98 per cent increase, the lowest in 14 years. Since the start of De Caire’s tenure, Hamilton police have made the budget process more transparent, posting presentation material online and hosting town hall meetings.

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