What inspires us is often what drives us to do some of our very best work. Inspiration can come in many forms such as a mentor, friend or family members, an event or maybe even a great film. If we’re lucky it sparks true passion, an eagerness to pursue it and more importantly the desire to pass the experience along to others. Recently, our consulting group got that chance and was invited by the Victoria Police Department to instruct an introductory course on Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), a methodology used around the globe.
Our Rethink Urban Team consisting of Lorne Daniel, Brian Einarson and I has a diverse background and we were eager to share our experiences. So we crafted a unique course integrating crime prevention, placemaking and social development for volunteer Reserve Officers working for both Victoria and Saanich (B.C., Canada) Police departments.
At the end of the 4-day program the participants become Certified in level 1 CPTED.
Most CPTED courses are taught by a single instructor due to budget concerns but we were very pleased to team up to provide a much richer experience for the participants, while keeping costs down for the sponsoring police departments. We are passionate about what we do and how we do it.
After all, part of the message of our four days is the 3Cs: to Care, Connect and Cooperate. Specifically, Care more about community, Connect with the marginalized, and Cooperate with diverse groups and agencies.
Building strong resilient communities that are healthy and thrive is about much more than the built environment. Our training went well beyond the boundaries of brick and mortar, good or bad design, to the use of evidence informed best practices that take into consideration the organic nature of communities. We explored the importance of relationships between local stakeholders and role that community conversations play in addressing their issues. Strategies designed to address local issues can be found by tapping in to the collective wisdom contained within our communities, but we must first strive to look, listen and understand.
We also integrate the growing urban interest in Placemaking: how to engage people to create healthy, inviting and safe public spaces. We were delighted that our Victoria and Saanich participants not only saw the value of community Placemaking but seemed naturals at engaging citizens in meaningful conversations.
CPTED continues to evolve well beyond the traditional principals into a very holistic 2nd Generation approach which encompasses arts and culture, capacity building, connectivity and social cohesion. It’s these things that let us infuse our communities and residents with hope, says Gregory Boyle. Material on compassion and kinship are not typically on a Police Academy training agenda, nor is creativity using art and music on the playlist.
The traditional policing response to complex social issues remains reactive for a variety of reasons, however, by identifying untapped capacity such as Reserve officers, police forces are able to add another tool to their tool belt. The way we police our communities can and should change, and as initiators of positive change, these new graduates will pave the way. Could a new Fun Factor become part of a new equation for policing?
Police officers today are dealing with a multitude of problems including mental health, addictions, homelessness and more. There is great promise in taking a bold step forward and really considering alternatives. Boyle clearly recognizes this and states, “There is no longer us and them, it’s only us. The measure of your compassion lies not in your service of those on the margins but in your willingness to see yourself in kinship with them.”
In my opening remarks to the class I told them about my first CPTED instructor, the late Timothy Crowe. In 1999 he told our class that we would never look at the environment the same way again. We were honored to teach these volunteer reserves working for the Victoria and Saanich Police and I suspect that they too will see things differently as they go about their important work in the communities they serve and protect.