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Crime reduction in Nanaimo gets boost from safety audits

Christy Wood, seated, and Andrea Staples are working on a safety audit of Nanaimo, B.C., to help reduce crime and improve residents' well-being. Credit: RCMP


The RCMP and the City of Nanaimo, B.C., are working together to conduct safety audits that will combine community dialogue and data from select neighbourhoods to reduce crime and improve safety.

Like other parts of Canada, Nanaimo, with a population of about 100,000, is grappling with criminal activity stemming from drug use — particularly opioids — homelessness and other policing concerns.

"Crime activity, or a perceived increase in crime, has shown to undermine how people feel about safety,." says Christy Wood, Nanaimo RCMP community policing co-ordinator. "The goal of the audits is to work with the neighbourhoods so their voices can be captured and offer some strategies for reducing the opportunities for crime."

Wood will lead the project with support from an RCMP criminal intelligence analyst and criminology students from Vancouver Island University.

The audits will rely on six months of data from Nanaimo's Records Management System, which will be examined by Andrea Staples, an RCMP criminal intelligence analyst, and a criminology student.

The pair will review data on property offences and the location where they occurred, as well as the overall potential harm these offences might have on the community. Rather than relying exclusively on overall crime counts, this approach will take into consideration the severity of the crime and its impact on victims and neighbourhoods.

That work will help Wood select at least six neighbourhoods for the audits, which will engage people and groups through meetings, online surveys and community walks.

"It will be nice to hear from the community about their experiences rather than only relying on data such as crime counts," says Staples.

Once completed, Wood's team will report to neighbourhoods and share the findings with decision makers and police, detailing neighbourhood concerns and presenting some crime prevention recommendations. The audits will provide a better understanding of how crime is affecting particular neighbourhoods within Nanaimo, says Wood.

She's hopeful the work done now will help make safety audits a tool that can be used to support neighbourhoods in building resiliency and safety.

"Safety audits have been shown to help," says Wood. "With the information we have, it can serve as a reference point for the concerns of neighbourhoods, identify ways that may make them safer and organize in ways to bring about those changes."

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