With Police Week under way today and tomorrow, I thought it would be a good opportunity for my column to leave the usual track of pushing for rational transit solutions in a land where such concepts sound wonderful but are truely completely foreign to all of us, and focus on the people who enforce our laws for a few moments. While policing addresses crime head on, it doesn't make any effort to address the root causes of crime in the structure of our society, but that's a different column. So here's this one.
Today marks the start of Ontario's annual Police Week. What better time to stop and really appreciate the contribution that our police department makes to the peace and well-being of our community?
Our media outlets are usually looking for problems -- scandals, disasters, or epidemics -- to catch our attention. As the saying goes, "If it bleeds, it leads." National news coverage sometimes sounds like a soap opera, reporting murders and crimes until we become inured to them and no longer even notice, except to wish they would announce good news more often.
Even so, we rarely take the time to notice when something is working properly. The fridge, the hot water tank, the car -- all are taken for granted until they break. In the same way, for most of us, the Guelph Police only come to mind when we realize we have been speeding, or have just made an illegal left turn.
The rest of the time, though, they are performing their real tasks.
Policing is among the most thankless tasks in any community, yet year after year, crime rates are substantially lower in Guelph than in other comparable cities in Ontario in every category except traffic violations.
There, we rate as the second highest, arguably a sign of the zeal of our men and women in uniform who monitor and patrol our roads.
"This year's theme is Policing Possibilities: Inspiration for the Future. This theme focuses on heightening community awareness and promoting collaboration between young people to keep our communities safe, through crime prevention, preparedness and social development," The Guelph Police Service said in a statement.
Policing services are not all performed by the active members of the force.
There are also groups of volunteers that strengthen links with the greater community.
One of these groups is the Community Volunteer Patrol (www.guelphcvp.ca). The volunteer patrol was started by residents of Guelph's west end in the mid-1990s. It grew quickly and serves the entire city, feeding information back to the police service's dispatcher as warranted, and helping to keep Guelph's crime rate down. Many similar volunteer services exist in other Ontario communities such as Kingston, Belleville, and Halton region.
Some forces, such as the OPP, have a more hard-core group of volunteers in their auxiliary units. All of these groups share one thing in common: they are all ways for the community to volunteer with the police services and contribute to our collective well-being.
The Guelph volunteer patrol is an eyes-and-ears extension of the Guelph Police Service. Usually at night, its members patrol parks, schoolyards, churches, and other neighbourhoods, institutions and businesses that request their presence.
They report directly to the police dispatcher while on duty and record everything that happens. You may also have seen them in their red shirts helping out at events such as Canada Day.
Guelph is a city rightly proud of its strong volunteerism, as seen during the recent National Volunteer Week.
If you want to get involved and help out with policing in Guelph, but the volunteer patrol is not your cup of tea, there are other opportunities to volunteer, with organizations such as Guelph Neighbourhood Watch or Block Parents.
If you want to learn more about these local opportunities, about the police service in general, or just want to show your appreciation to our Police service, Police Week is your big chance.
Today and tomorrow, you are invited to an open house at the Guelph Police Station any time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. to meet the people of our police service, and the volunteer community groups attached to the police that help to make Guelph a better place.
Guelph works because people like you take an interest and show their appreciation. Successful policing requires community involvement.
Posted at 20:50 on May 11, 2009