By Lethbridge Herald on January 6, 2021.
Lethbridge Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh says he wants to bring a stronger focus on crime prevention to the City of Lethbridge during his time at the Lethbridge Police Service, and create a new partnership between police and community members to work on a crime reduction strategy together.
“Crime in Lethbridge is high, and we need to do something about that,” Mehdizadeh told The Herald in a recent year-end interview.
“That obviously takes effort internally from our processes in investigations, having better analytical work and a group to really put their heads together to better combat crime, and looking at different crime reduction strategies we can use to provide that better service to the community. But equally important is the community’s role, and what they are going to do to make this community safer. Which would be part of that education piece we want to bring, and provide tips and examples about how citizens can actually protect themselves and their community.”
At heart, this new crime prevention strategy partnership between the police service and community members has two components which go hand-in-hand, says Mehdizadeh: Increasing citizen awareness of how they can prevent common property crimes, and creating a database of intelligence-driven data which identifies emerging trends in types of crime more quickly and efficiently.
The citizen-responsibility component is an easy one to implement, affirms Mehdizadeh, if people keep one important principle in mind.
“When you look at the crimes that are committed here, a lot of the crimes I am seeing in this city are generally opportunity crimes,” he explains. “One common theme with criminals is that they are lazy. That’s why they commit crimes. If you make committing crime work for them, they are going to do less of it.”
Mehdizadeh cites an example to illustrate this point.
“I am not talking about violent crimes like assault or sexual assault, but a lot of the crimes that are committed here are those property opportunity crimes– in example, the majority of the cars stolen in this city have the keys in them,” he says.
The other component of that prevention partnership strategy, Mehdizadeh states, is ensuring citizens are providing up to date information to the police service when they know crimes are occurring more frequently or more obviously in their neighbourhoods to help provide more raw data to the police service. This also means LPS officers from the street patrol officer on up will have to also re-evaluate their own current data-gathering system, and ensure that information is being centralized and shared across the entire police service when these trends in crime emerge.
“Internally, we are going to be bringing ComStat into Lethbridge,” Mehdizadeh explains, “which is a model built from New York which actually talks about crime, hotspots, criminals and an accountability piece as to commitments of different units. I have set up that forum in different locations (while in the RCMP), and I know it does bring a lot of value to different places, because then we are truly intel-driven as to our approach.”
According to Wikipedia, ComStat (or CompStat) includes four recognized components: timely and accurate information or intelligence, rapid deployment of resources, effective tactics, and relentless follow-up.
Mehdizadeh points to the component of timely and accurate information as being a co-responsibility of citizens and the police service.
“I could have 500 more officers in this city,” he adds, “but if the citizens don’t become that true partner we need then crime is not going to go down. In my previous life in the RCMP, I used to get an earful from citizens who used to say they don’t like to call because nothing gets done. So my honest answer to them was, if you don’t call there is no problem in my books.
“If we don’t capture the information,” Mehdizadeh emphasizes, “we can’t do anything with it anyway. My resources go to where they need to be where people do actually pick up the phone and call.
“No call is too small,” he further states. “You have to call and give us the information. We may not do anything about it at the time, but as the information is coming in to our analytical board if we see a trend and a problem coming up then we can actually put resources to deal with that.”
Mehdizadeh says there are many in the community who perceive Lethbridge to be unsafe, and the only way to change that perception is by working together as a community to tackle the challenge head-on, and becoming active partners with the police service in crime prevention in the community.
“I feel the only way to actually get our citizens to feel safer in this community is to actually show the crime is reducing in this community,” he states. “The most effective way to change perception that the community is safe is to keep driving that crime down. And I believe we have the team, we have the knowledge, we have the ability, and the resources, the partnerships, and a community that wants to see that.”
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