BRAMPTON - Despite weekly reports of criminal activity occurring throughout the community, local residents may be surprised to learn that Caledon has been named the safest place to live in all of Canada.
Maclean's magazine gave the Town the number one spot in a cover story titled ‘The Most Dangerous Cities in Canada' released last Thursday, but before the magazine hit the streets, rumours were already floating around Town about the findings. By the end of last week, buzz about the cover story had hit newspapers, radio and television screens across the country with high praise for Caledon being proclaimed as statistically the safest place to live.
"It's far from being surprising and it's entirely expected," said Dr. Patrick Parnaby, a Bolton resident and criminologist who is a professor at Guelph University, during an interview with The Enterprise. "And the reason why is because of socio-economics."
Parnaby, a sociology and anthropology professor, claims that any time you take a relatively wealthy, non-urban community with demographics being less-ethnically diverse, crime statistics are lower.
"You put these (factors) together and there's absolutely nothing surprising here," the longtime Caledon resident said. "I think people here will have a moment or two of pride," said Parnaby of residents' reactions to the findings, but cautions, "we really shouldn't allow ourselves to get too lofty."
For the study Maclean's used 2006 crime date from the Canadian Centre of Justice Statistics focusing on six crimes including homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, vehicle theft, robbery as well as breaking and entering. The magazine calculated the percentage difference from the national rate, however, that rate was not provided. Caledon ranked the lowest at 107.1 per cent, below the national average and up against 100 of Canada's biggest cities or regions. At the other end of the spectrum sat Regina, at 146.3 per cent above the average.
"It's certainly a unique recognition for the citizens and town staff we work so closely with," said Caledon OPP Detachment Commander Inspector Andy Karski in an interview Monday.
The inspector credits the proper use of resources for the favourably high marks portrayed in the magazine. An initiative Karski takes great pride in is Caledon OPP's restorative justice programme, which allows victims and those charged to resolve non-violent crimes and fitting punishment without going through the court system. Another valuable tool Caledon police use to deter crime is regular police foot patrols throughout the community, which jumped from 600 hours in 2006 to 6,000 in 2007.
"It's the foundation of how we do everything... the key is visibility," said Karski, giving credit to OPP officers for contributing to Caledon's image of safety. "It gives people a sense of security and acts a high deterrent factor."
"The Maclean's article not only shows that crime isn't occurring in Caledon, but we also solve 90 per cent of all violent crime - which is the highest in Ontario and well above the national average," Karski added. In 2005, Caledon's crime rate was down 18 per cent and in 2006; it fell by another six per cent.
Considering the Town's close proximity to more populous communities, including Brampton, Toronto, and York Region, Caledon's low crime rate is something to take note of.
"Bolton is 20 minutes from Toronto," Karski noted. "Crime doesn't stop at Mayfield Road... this is a unique recognition in terms of geographic proximity."
But just how long will Caledon be able to hold on to the number one ‘safest community' position, considering the strains of a growing community?
"Growth is probably the most important issue in terms of a police perspective," said Karski.
"The problem is if growth isn't properly managed, that's when things can get away from you."
However, as the Town grows, Karski said Caledon OPP will be working with the province and municipal government to determine an appropriate police force size and "continue to deliver a top-notch police service in the Town of Caledon."
Regardless of where Caledon ranks in terms of crime statistics, new ways of improving community safety will be explored.
"We're not resting on our laurels and by no means is our job done," said Karski. "We have to continue working with the Town and our community groups. It's not something we'll ever take forgranted."
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