This is just one of the various community safety conversations held throughout Edmonton.

PHOTO | ANDY BIALOWAS

This is just one of the various community safety conversations held throughout Edmonton.

September 24, 2012
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The goal of a new coordinating council in Edmonton is to make the city safer within one generation.

REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities has a collaborative approach to crime prevention in which everyone plays a role. Its mandate is to create a culture shift to prevent crime by integrating efforts that address community safety.

"The best solutions to community safety lie within the community. We do not want to impose solutions," said Jan Fox, executive director of REACH Edmonton.

Fox, the former warden of Edmonton's women's prison, hopes Church representatives will continue participating in the REACH process.

Churches are already doing a lot to help people stay out of trouble with the law, she said. The community conversations are yet another way for churches to get involved.

Churches were contacted when REACH was devising its initial recommendations. As well, Fox has given several presentations to various churches and interfaith groups.

"The churches are starting to hear more about REACH, and they're starting to show a lot of interest because safety is everybody's issue. "So many of the things that churches already do are so consistent with the mandate of REACH. The work that we do is to keep our families healthy, happy and safe," said Fox.

"We would love to have representatives from the churches attend our community conversations to give us feedback on what they think they need to make them feel safe," said Fox.

REACH began in 2009 out of Mayor Stephen Mandel's taskforce on community safety. The taskforce revealed that Edmontonians need someone to own the "R" for responsibility.

The mayor said an aim of REACH Edmonton is to create effective programs and strategies that can help prevent crime before it even happens.

Fox said REACH is a stand-alone organization, and does not take direction from the City of Edmonton.

"We're much different from any organization in Canada. While there are a lot of crime prevention initiatives going on in municipalities across the country, there are no organizations that are separate from the municipality to the degree that we are," she said.

DIVERSE TARGETS

REACH Edmonton's vision is a city in which every person contributes to a community where everyone is safe and feels safe. Today, REACH is involved with more than 30 projects in the city that take diverse approaches to crime prevention and safety. Some of the projects focus on youth at risk, newcomer families and creating new leadership. Others are geared toward helping vulnerable populations.

"We are not looking for quick-fix solutions. We are looking more for systemic change," said Fox. "We know that if we want to make Edmonton safer, we have to deal with those causes. "We have to get tough on the causes of crime, as opposed to getting tough on crime."

One REACH initiative is called Schools as Community Hubs. The project sees schools as important access points for families and youth, which can provide a focus point for community connection.

"I have the sense that churches are very much the hubs of a community as well, so we're really anxious to have more conversations with Church groups," said Fox.

REACH is hosting a community safety campaign, which entails conversations at various venues across the city.

Participants identify resources that are working well and resources that are missing. They also identify areas of collaboration between communities, and begin facilitating the necessary training for community leaders to organize more effectively.

The meetings are held at community halls and recreation centres. The complete list of dates, times and locations can be found at reachedmonton.ca.