Square One Community Inc. Moose Jaw and the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) hosted a Business Community Conversation that focused on community safety and collaboration Wednesday night at the Moose Jaw Public Library Theatre.
Police Chief Rick Bourassa and Superintendent Taylor Mickleborough presented on behalf of the Moose Jaw Police Service.
"We're always working with community agencies, community partners to get at some of the issues that we see and what we've seen here is, over the winter there were some challenges in making sure that everyone had a warm place to stay. That was part of what the conversation was tonight," said Bourassa. "How do we as a community work together to make sure that people's basic needs are being met in our community. It's a conversation that we're happy to be involved in, we'll continue to be involved, and we'll support and help where we can and we look to the others in our community to continue building programs that will lead to successes in our community."
Bourassa noted they've been seeing an increase in disturbance calls in Crescent Park, with 21 in 2022.
"In terms of downtown, and in the parks and in some of the public spaces, we have had not large, but increases that we track in calls for service and in disruptive sorts of situations. Last year we began deploying police officers walking on foot, what we would call beats and we're going to enhance that this year. We already have, we've begun that. Just to have a more on the ground presence and to meet with people and build relationships and help to solve problems, so we'll have police officers on the beat and on bicycles in the downtown area and in the parks in the area."
He said very little of what they deal with is actually crime.
"About a quarter of our calls for service relate to crime and the other 75 per cent relate to disruptions or people struggling to get along in the community. Those are the areas where we've seen increases in calls for service. We are happy to provide supports and to make sure people have connections to the proper supports. We would just ask people to call us when there are challenges that they're not sure how to deal with and we can either deal with it or we can provide access to different supports in the community that might be able to help."
One of the programs that Bourassa was touting was Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, which is a philosophy that encourages the use of design to eliminate or reduce criminal behaviour. This includes small things, like ensuring trees and bushes around your property are not overgrown so criminals can use them as cover, making sure doors and windows are unobstructed so criminals can be easily seen and installing and maintaining sufficient lighting. Bourassa said there has been some uptake in the program, but encouraged more local businesses to get involved.
Square One General Manager Cheantelle Fisher and board member Lori Deets spoke on behalf of the organization.
"It's always nice to see the community come together and hold each other accountable, ask questions, not be afraid to share experiences and call people out when they feel like they need to," said Fisher. " I hope that we continue to do this, and that as we do, more folks attend and bring their personal experiences to the table and we can better work together when we have a whole bunch of people that are willing to do the work."
Fisher was recently hired to oversee Square One's new emergency women's shelter and warming/cooling centre located in William Milne Place.
Deets noted that Square One is working to establish a Community Safety Host Program to alleviate some of the problems at the library and in the downtown sector.
"Right now, we're going to do some community working groups that's going to include all of our community from our lived-experience to former-experience to people who are working on the ground level with our equity-seeking community...People that can actually work with our vulnerable sector in solving their problems and helping them directly instead of sending them to organizations and people falling through cracks."
She explained that the safety hosts would be trained security guards who would also have additional certifications.
"So they will have their standard 40-hour commissioner services and then as well they would be trained in trauma informed care and non-violent crises intervention. They'd know the community, they'd know the resources, they'd know how to work with people and they'd be able to help people one-on-one. A lot of time people just need a specific need being taken care of and sometimes they they end up having crisis around that. We plan to lessen those crisis, lessen the times that people call the PACT and call the police by intervening and helping some of those needs of our community."
Square One Community Inc. was established in 2021 from the COVID Community Response Committee. Housing instability was identified in a city-wide survey of agencies as being a priority. Anecdotal evidence showed the need for housing, coupled with wrap-around services to support the individual's new beginnings.