Permanent funding for the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) must lead to high neighbourhood visibility.
This week, following a meeting which included Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and Mayor Rob Ford, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty pledged to provide permanent funding for the program. Since its creation in 2006, TAVIS has relied on funding extensions from the province to keep going.
The program, run by Toronto Police, was formed in 2006 in response to a sharp spike in gun violence the previous year in the city, combatting guns and gangs through rapid response teams.
There’s also a neighbourhood initiative that focuses on specific areas of the city each summer. This year, it’s operating in the Jamestown area of Etobicoke and the Jane Street corridor in North York. Last year, it was set up in the Brimley Road and Eglinton Avenue area in Scarborough, as well as the Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue area in York.
That the TAVIS funding is to be permanent is encouraging news but it’s only a step.
Toronto Police must now seize the opportunity provided by this security and build on previous successes. The program has been credited with more than 19,000 arrests and the seizure of more than 1,200 firearms.
Critics lament that neighbourhood challenges re-surface once a particular program wraps up and the increased police visibility is reduced.
While we understand TAVIS isn’t designed to involve a permanent stepped-up police presence, improving results in this area must be an ongoing goal. A successful program goes beyond arrest totals, and is one where neighbourhood residents take greater ownership and pride in where they live and feel more comfortable approaching law enforcement. It’s about nurturing a partnership. For police, this means clear reporting to community and volunteer organizations.
At its best, TAVIS is more than a reaction; it’s an investment in a community.
Last week, in the wake of a spate of fatal shootings across the city, we issued a call for increased visibility from both residents and police. Blair himself at a news conference yesterday, unveiled a plan for increased deployment of officers across Toronto.
Ultimately, no matter how strong an initiative it is, TAVIS must continue to evolve and grow along with the specific communities it’s tasked with reaching. Doing so by increasing visibility at the neighbourhood level is a great place to focus.
Only that way can a true community connection be forged.