Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The 2023 Problem-Oriented Policing Conference

The famous Pearl Street pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado
- photo Creative Commons, Wiki

by Gregory Saville

In a blog last December, I wallowed in one of my annual whine-fests about the state of policing when I wrote about organizational amnesia and the post-Ferguson wake-up for police strategies.

Now I must retrace my steps, stop whining, and introduce one of the best antidotes to that cynicism. 

Each year a group of the best in policing gathers to consider a new way forward for police. They examine innovative problem-solving, community collaborations, and how to use data and analysis to solve intractable crime issues. I am writing, of course, about this year’s 31st Annual International Problem-Oriented Policing Conference.

There are sessions on policing homelessness, reimagining campus safety, responding to active shootings, new approaches to field training and the PTO model, and crime prevention through environmental design.

In short, if we had police departments across the country with a much deeper dive into this form of policing in modern policing, we would have less community-police conflict and a safer community. It is really that simple. 

Hilton Embassy Suites is the venue in Boulder - Photo Orbitz

I will be presenting both CPTED and SafeGrowth at this conference. As well, I am very excited to see some exemplary work of police officers around the world as they compete for top honors in the prestigious Herman Goldstein Problem-Oriented Policing Award program.

Professor Herman Goldstein was among the most thoughtful and caring police scholars when it comes to policing as if people matter. He delighted in hearing the amazing success stories of police working with communities to fight crime. His influential book Problem-Oriented Policing is a seminal text on how to do policing right. 

The method is described in detail on the Center for Problem Oriented Policing website, led by Michael Scott, clinical professor and director of the center.

Register for the conference here.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Scale is good for economies... but is it good for social policy?

Budgeting for social agencies - Lessons from Calgary 
Photo Creative Commons

GUEST BLOG: Larry Leach is Executive Director of 12 Community Safety Initiative (12CSI), a non-profit crime prevention collaborative in Calgary, Canada, one of the initial sponsors of the 2015 SafeGrowth Summit. In 2018 12CSI won the Alberta Solicitor General's Award for Community Collaboration and the Ambassador program won it in 2022. Larry has been a Huffington Post blogger and is involved in the SafeGrowth Network. He was awarded with the Queens Diamond and Platinum Jubilee medals for his contributions to community-building.

I recently started analyzing the budgets of social agencies in Calgary and the numbers may stagger many not working within the sector. While my analysis is not yet complete, it is clear that the collective budgets of agencies serving the homeless and vulnerable sectors are well over $200 Million per year. Most of those monies come from the Federal Government (some through Calgary Homeless Foundation) to agencies with budgets ranging from $10 - $40 million. 

While I wouldn’t advocate that those monies aren’t spent in a justified way or that less should be spent, we look at the scale of these local agencies with budgets over $10 million to examine their relative effectiveness. We ask the question: Can the system and the agencies employ these significant resources in a more community-centered way?

In many cases, community engagement starts and ends with a town
hall meeting. That is not enough!


I heard a great quote at a Crime Prevention conference recently from a registered social worker, Kassidy Green from Boyle Street Community Services: “I am a member of the community first, then a member of my profession (social worker)”. That resonates with me. 

I work with a team of Ambassadors that walk our neighbourhoods daily working with vulnerable people to help them access services. In that work, the thing we hear most is a simple thank you for speaking to them with respect and trying to help them. It is a one-to-one, person-to-person, holistic community approach.

Community action teams have direct involvement on the
streets of their own neighbourhood 

When considering CPTED and SafeGrowth, it is said many times throughout these blogs that the real experts are the people that live in these neighbourhoods. In many cases, these agencies may have once upon a time engaged communities they work in, but in practice, the relationships are nonexistent for most of them. Some of the methods they may have used to justify their approach to their funders are described in prior SafeGrowth blogs, especially They Won't Get Involved 1 and They Won't Get Involved 2.  

Like many City of Calgary engagement sessions, you do not build community relationships by standing in front of a room and telling people that live in the community how an agency is going to improve the quality of life. That may help an agency check a tick box for the funders, but it does nothing to establish positive relationships. The best way to engage a community is outlined in They Won't Get Involved blogs mentioned above.

Community engagement should also mean fun activities, socializing, and food


Let’s go in a different direction. What if the scale of these agencies prevents them from spending time building relationships with communities? What if these monies went to smaller groups or directly to the community itself through the social agency to solve social issues one block, one person, and one community at a time?

Let’s consider outputs vs. outcomes. Often, when you look at agency reports, they speak about how many things they gave out, from food hampers to safe needles. Does that show a good outcome? How were people’s lives affected? I heard a great example at a conference by Daniel J Jones, Chair of Justice Studies, NorQuest College. When the Police hold a press conference and stand in front of a table full of illegal drugs that they confiscated on the street, does the price of cocaine go down? 

Going forward in community funding, I think we must consider the following fundamental questions: 

  • How are we affecting people’s lives? 
  • Are we improving people’s lives? 
  • How does what we do affect the community around our work? 
  • How do we empower the community to be part of the solution? 
  • Is what we are doing keeping people from improving their lives? 
  • Is what we are doing supporting everyone in the community?

Monday, May 8, 2023

Tragedy close to home

Police are not the answer to prevent shootings
- photo Rosemary Ketchum (

by Mateja Mihinjac

Here in Europe, we would often watch in horror weekly reports of mass shootings from United States. Now, sadly, we understand better than ever we’re not immune from them in Europe either. Last week Europe followed in disbelief similar horrific events that unfolded in Serbia. 

First, a 13-year-old boy shot and killed eight school children and a school security guard and injured another six pupils and a teacher in a Belgrade school.

Less than 48 hours later, a 21-year-old man shot and killed eight people and wounded another fourteen from a moving vehicle across several locations southeast of Belgrade.

Following a silent march to protest against gun violence Serbian leadership had no choice but to vow immediate action to toughen gun control measures in the country. In the wake of public scrutiny, the Serbian Education Minister has also resigned.


In the aftermath of the Serbian events, my country of Slovenia has also been anxiously responding to potential threats from within. There is now increased police presence around schools across the country. There were even some discussions about installing metal detectors at schools. 

Teens watch police tactical officers from a distance 

One school has also received anonymous email threats, which prompted the initial placement of police patrols around two schools and the absence of some children from schools on that day. 

The Serbian events have now added to calls for urgent focus on the problem of youth violence, its detection and prevention, which had been in the media spotlight since last month when peer violence in one Slovenian school was caught on camera and shared on social media.


Feeling connected to peers, neighbours, and their neighbourhood, I believe, acts as an antidote to feelings of loneliness, alienation, and feelings of not belonging. The International CPTED Association’s recently published CPTED Guidebook for Schools similarly acknowledges the importance of social and psychological environment – in connection with physical – for children’s wellbeing and prevention of violence in schools. In fact, an ICA webinar on school safety delves directly into these problems.

SafeGrowth specialist and city planner, Elisabeth Miller, engages
school children in planning and crime prevention early in their education 

I believe that a positive neighbourhood environment and a healthy community environment are even more crucial for children and youth. We as adults have the responsibility for ensuring healthy environments for their positive emotional development. 

Moreover, they should be actively engaged in neighbourhood life and encouraged to participate in decision-making activities concerning their neighbourhood, and their schools. This is why in SafeGrowth we insist on the diversity of our neighbourhood SafeGrowth teams also in terms of age where children and youth can become active participants in neighbourhood life.

The quality of our neighbourhoods depends on the quality of relationships we have with our neighbours – and children are also part of that equation.