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Name of Organization/ Police Force/ Group/ Band Council: Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. Partner: City of Toronto Parks and Recreation. Sponsoring Agency: Catholic Children’s Aid Society.
Commencement Date: December 1, 1998. Official Completion Date: December 1, 1999 (end of funding). Actual Completion Date: Work still continues. Please note error in Partners against Crime Evaluation form: Nov.1 1998 was not the start date because our proposal had not yet been offered funding. See “history of grant” section for more information.
Objectives of our project as identified in the proposal: 1. We wanted to provide an introduction to meaningful work for local youth, especially those who are disruptive or have had encounters with the law. 2. We wanted to establish a graduated system of practical responses to crime and fear in the neighbourhood. 3. To do this we needed to build some new links between our organizations, residents and small businesses of the neighbourhood, youth agencies, the police, the crown attorney’s office, the two brokers of community service hours ordered by the courts, and several youth detention centres in our neighbourhood. 4. We wanted to establish standards of social behaviour in public space that are acceptable to the larger community. 5. We wanted to pass on what we learn to our neighbours and beyond them to other neighbourhoods in similar situations.
What service we delivered to our community, specific to the grant provided: 1. We ran an odd-jobs-program for youth in three Toronto parks (Dufferin Grove Park, with some spillover into Christie Pits and the Wallace-Emerson ice rink). We included at-risk youth and those already involved with the courts. Odd jobs were paid by stipends unless the young person was doing a Community Service Order. 2. The program was operated by our own part-time youth worker with help from some neighbourhood residents. 3. It was supported by three three-quarter-time youth workers from Parks and Recreation, and 4. accompanied by many hours of attempts to establish more practical links between our community, the police, and the court system.
How and why the project was successful or not successful in achieving its objectives:
1. Success: we worked with 46 young people over the period of the grant, assigning them odd jobs and working alongside them. A large part of the work involved snack bars and pizza oven duties for the rink in winter and the numerous park events in the other three seasons. There the young people not only learned food handling and presentation but they also learned to relate to the many neighbourhood people who use the park. Twelve youth were involved through court orders, and an additional 8 were involved (more infrequently) through the neighbourhood detention centre (a locked house, but youth came to our park with their workers). Three of the CSO youth graduated to odd jobs and then to work with Parks and Recreation. Many of the others formed positive connections with neighbours and staff and have kept those connections since then.
2. Success: we established some practical responses to threatening and illegal behaviour in public space. Through trial and error, we clarified out response to bullying, intimidation, small-time extortion of peers, obscene language and cursing in public space (including the playing of uncensored music), and unlawful I.D. requests by police. (Please see appendix for relevant documents.)
3. Success: we made some helpful new links, notably with the nearby high school principal, some small local businesses, and two probation workers, as well many new links between neighbours and park users. In one case of group vandalism in the park, one of the perpetrators was steered to the park by his probation officer after an unrelated conviction. He ended up fixing a considerable amount of other people’s damage, and he helped us make a staff training booklet for the winter work at the park’s ice rink. The greatest success was undoubtedly the new links between neighbours that came out of our efforts. One example: two youths known in the community were suspected of theft at a party across from the park. One was arrested and charged. Police questioned park neighbours in an effort to build a case against the second youth. The victim’s family asked police if they would try to bring the suspects, and anyone else involved, together into a “family group conference,” to offer an alternative to going through the courts. Unlike their counterparts in some other police forces in Canada and internationally, Fourteen Division police declined to do this. But the families of the two youths were known in the community and it was possible, without help from the police, to link the families to one another so that they could speak directly. This was a sometimes painful exchange, involving many phone calls, and many bits and pieces of community discussion, some of it in the park, some of it among the youth, some of it in the neighbourhood grocery store. Eventually the courts rejected the case against the one youth, so neither of them were processed by the court system. Since then, relationships have been subtly mended and neither of the youth have made more trouble in the neighbourhood. Nor has there been a residue of bad blood. Another example of improved links: in 1997 a new group of youth came to the basketball court, without loyalty to either the neighbourhood or any of the park staff. By spring 1998, relations were very poor, and threatening behaviour was not uncommon (see examples below). Because the staff were very focused on the crime prevention project, they asked an experienced youth worker from Regent Park to come and talk to the youth. The visit was arranged. Those youth who didn’t boycott it (by withdrawing to where they could observe but not take part), “dissed” the visiting youth worker, and our project’s own youth staff, very thoroughly. After an hour of shouting back and forth (some of it in Jamaican dialect from both the youth and the staff side) each side withdrew. There had been no resolution at all. Yet somehow the spectacle of the noisy conflict, right out in the park like that, seemed to allow people to turn a corner. Did the insulting words spoken on that day lead to some regret and some reflection? Maybe. Also there may have been a sense that things were so bad they could only go up from there. It still took months to build a reasonably courteous relationship between the youths and the neighbourhood. The removal of several youth to jail for reasons unrelated to the park helped. (Many of the youth themselves were very relieved at the disappearance of the really bad eggs.) The police’s CAP program helped in a backwards way. CAP involved frequent police requests for identification, addressed to young black men just sitting quietly in the park. The community disapproval that resulted from this doubtful police practice did not go unnoticed. When youthful park users discovered that the people working to improve standards of public behaviour were opposed to any unjust behaviour, whether from the youth or the police, our project gained in credibility, and direct co-operation improved. (This is not, in our opinion, an ideal method of raising standards of behaviour. Police and neighbourhood people should not be seen to be in conflict, but rather in a relationship of helpful cooperation that includes as many groups as possible.)
4. Lack of success: we were unable to develop practical, helpful connections to: the police, the courts, or most probation workers. This was not for want of trying. During the year after the grant when direct follow-up was still being made, our researcher/ youth worker conducted 15 interviews with crown attorneys, judges, lawyers, probation workers, and local police. In one case of assault on a park staff, a park staff and the researcher attended court 10 times (same case, all to set a court date) and then found that the Parks Department’s written offer of direct involvement through community hours was just ignored at the young man’s sentencing. (His community-hours worker later told us that our persistence in following the case showed that the parks staff could not supervise the young man without prejudice, and therefore she would not place him in the park to do his service.) In another case charges were laid but never made it into the system because of police oversight. (See appendix.) Twenty follow-up letters were sent to the relevant law and court officials after the end of our attempts. There were only two responses (see appendix).
5. Lack of success: we wanted to pass on what we learned to our neighbours and other community groups involved in public space, in the form of a written booklet. Because of our lack of success in gaining cooperation for our efforts from the justice system, including the police, the “helpful hints” we had hoped to pass along have not materialized as yet. We prolonged the project far beyond its funding, persisting in our efforts at finding the key the community needs, to get into the door of the justice system. Much of the booklet is already written, but since we are currently unwilling to publish a document that says gaining official cooperation is virtually impossible, the booklet is still on hold. How we measured our objectives: We logged all important interactions in the park log and then collated the data. During the summer months when tension was high, the Parks Department added two part-time staff in addition to the ones budgeted for the grant, and the researcher/ youth worker added volunteer hours to her paid hours to make sure that follow-up was done most of the time. We also logged all community comments and suggestions and tried to follow up when indicated, most of the time. All these details are in a permanent record.
The role of the police in the project: Although the Fourteen Division Superintendent contributed a letter of recommendation to the grant application, when the grant came through there was no sense that we would be working on this project together. Two years previously, the superintendent had explained to us when we went to see him, that calls for assistance from the park staff had no special standing with his department. That is, if there was a problem of maintaining order or supporting the authority of city staff in public space, the park staff would just have to line up with all the ordinary (non-emergency) calls from citizens. The provincial crime prevention grant did not alter our standing.
During the year of the grant and the year following, the researcher visited other groups which relate to police, and contacted people who were in such groups, for interviews. It appeared to her that residents’ associations with larger memberships had a surprisingly large police attendance (e.g. for Parkdale Community Watch, 6 officers at one meeting and then 8 at the next meeting, including the superintendent). Community-police liaison groups were harder to track down. One group sent 6 community members to a public meeting wearing t-shirts showing their police division. Another group was on the point of disbanding and declined a visit. Another group had been disbanded by police, apparently after some criticisms offered by its citizen members. Another group had advertised a meeting but the meeting time must have been a mistake, since there was no one there. Interviews with former members of such groups suggested that participation in CPL groups is often short-term and somewhat frustrating for the participants, for various reasons. So there seemed to be no help for our project there.
Direct involvement of police during our project: May 23 1998: large, strong-looking man on basketball court shouting obscenities at young women, cursing a garden volunteer, saying he “hoped she would break her neck.” Police were called. No response within half an hour. May 26: group fighting on basketball court, machete and knife were shown but not used. Police were called. One motorcycle officer arrived after 20 minutes. Told park staff he wouldn’t have been able to lay charges just for possession of a machete. May 28: apparent drug bust beside basketball court. Something went wrong and one officer got mace in his eyes and an ambulance came. No communication between park staff and police about what was happening, at the time or afterwards. July 4: Group drinking near community oven. Two very small children were part of this group. One drinker threw two beer bottles at a basketball player on the court. The bottles missed the park youth worker but smashed all over the court. Police were called. Drinker disappeared but police were asked to get names of the women in the drinking group (they had stayed with the babies, jeering at the park staff) so the park staff could trespass them. Officers declined to do this. July 12: Police came and talked to staff to let them know that C.A.P. was starting and there would be many police in the park from then on. For the next 6 weeks, cruisers drove through the park at least three times a day, often checking i.d. of youth at picnic tables. July 26: open-air theater rehearsal disrupted by obscene language of drinker in a group. Threatened park staff when asked to leave. Police were called but didn’t come until 1 ½ hours later. Drinker had left after half an hour of public haranguing. Aug.13: Public performance of rap opera at park, called “Hiphopera.” Rink Clubhouse jammed to capacity with neighbourhood and arts people. Many people still outside because of insufficient space. Police participation: two cruisers at bake oven, getting black youth who were barbecuing there to show their i.d. Officers seemed unaware that this was not good p.r. Nov.4: After a week of neighbourhood summons to the fire department because youth were doing campfires without a permit, burning a park bench for firewood, police were called to a campfire. They came within 10 minutes, put the fires out, talked to the youth. Youth dispersed and there were no more illegal campfires for the season. (Successful call for police assistance!) Nov.13: researcher/ youth worker came upon group of 15-20 youth drinking and vandalizing playground and community gardens. They threatened to beat up the researcher when she told them to stop. She called police. They came and gave chase up to Bloor Street. One person was detained but not charged with mischief until three weeks later (requested by the Parks Department). Paperwork was misplaced and the case did not proceed, although this was not confirmed for many months. Nov.23: dog walker spoke to youth on basketball court about public urination and openly training their pit bulls to be vicious at the park. One youth spat at the dog walker. She called police. No one came. After half an hour she called researcher. Researcher came and talked to remaining youth. Dog walker called police back and canceled request for help.
This is the list of log entries concerning the police, before Dec.1 1999. In the following year there were several other notable attempts to gain police assistance for troubles in the park. They were also largely unsuccessful. (See appendix.) During that same period there was a new Community Response staff sergeant, a new Fourteen Division superintendent, and a new Toronto Chief of Police. All were contacted, in order of rank, in an effort to address the question of how a community could effectively enlist police help in issues concerning public space. As the appendix documents show, that problem is still just as unsolved as it was at the beginning of our crime prevention project.
In what way did the project benefit/ enhance/ strengthen your community and/or police partnership?
Although it may seem from the foregoing that our project experience was largely unsuccessful and also quite frustrating, in fact many good things came out of it. Our decision to increase the role of our main researcher/ youth worker means that there has been continuity throughout the project. Relationships between various groups can be mediated by her to a greater degree, since she has gotten to know more and more of the groups in the park.
The length of the project, so far, has been (in our perception) one year funded and two years unfunded. That is, we regard this as a project that will not go away. We strongly believe in the necessity of working out standards of behaviour in public space that will allow all citizens maximum enjoyment of our commons. To stop working at this task is not an option.
In our view, the police must find a way to become receptive to such community initiatives, both small and large. In our experience, they have not found this way.
However because we were forced to solve most of our problems without police help and without the help of the court system either, we learned some useful things in other ways. The publication of a monthly park newsletter, whose distribution has quadrupled since the first issue in Sept.2000, has been of great help in making the various groups and people more acquainted with the issues and with one another. Park bulletin boards have proved a great incentive to public discussions about fear and safety in public space. Our park, recently given recognition at an international parks conference as a “great community place,” has become so much more of a spontaneous meeting place that community problems can get the creative attention of many more people.
One park user has created a park web site (http://dufferingrove.tripod.com) that makes it easy to post the newsletters and quickly send out “breaking news,” or items that need discussion, on the accompanying list serve. This not only means faster community attention to problems: it also means that if and when we do gain a more receptive relationship with any part of the justice system, the good news can be passed around immediately.
One other positive effect of the project had to do with our repeated, and ultimately unsuccessful, court visits to follow up the attack on a park staff at a neighbouring ice rink. Most of the trouble in our park was caused by older youth, not young offenders. When we went to the ten set-dates at the Old City Hall courts, we were astonished at how many familiar park faces we saw, waiting for trial on matters unrelated to the park -- and they were astonished to see us there. The context of the park relationships was suddenly enlarged, and our respect rating went up drastically (once the youth realized we were there to follow up park-related trouble). We learned that sloppiness and closing one’s eyes to trouble in public space is not popular even with the troublemakers. People respect toughness if it’s fair, and the people who worked on this project got extra points from the park youth for following through. (This surprised us.)
Outline plans for the future of this project: Part of the answer is in the section above. The other part is that our booklet will be published, only the date is uncertain. Most of the stories in it have been written. It has a working title: Whose conflict is it anyway? Funding for printing and distribution has not been confirmed but there is solid interest. We have two more hopes for a break-through with our failed attempts to find the way into the justice system: a limited circulation of this report and an appeal to one more level of government. But even if these efforts come up empty, it may be that Whose conflict is it anyway will have some influence when it appears. In that case, we would enjoy having to print a revised version a few years down the road, chronicling how, against the odds, our community found a fruitful way to work with the police or the courts.
The usefulness of the Crime Prevention Program, and suggestions for improving the grants process: 1. The Ministry of the Solicitor General will make this program much more useful if it can broker a direct effort by police and court workers to cooperate with funded projects. 2. The Ministry would gain by staffing the program sufficiently so that those in charge can take some time over each project, to read the applications very carefully, and respond in a timely manner. Here’s the reason we say that:
A little history of our attempt to get a grant through this program: Aug.23, 1997: Letters of inquiry to Mr.Michael Wong and Mr.Michael Ramsay, asking about our eligibility. No reply. Dec.15, 1997: Application submitted to Ministry of the Solicitor General, for project based at Dufferin Grove Park. Partners: City of Toronto Parks and Recreation, Dufferin Mall Youth Services. Sponsoring Agency: Catholic Children’s Aid Society. Proposed starting date: May 1, 1998. Asked for $64,540. No response. April 1 1998: we wrote to our MPP to ask him to find out what happened. April 16: MPP wrote to Ms. Barbara Stanley to inquire about our proposal. He told us there was no answer. June 4 1998: MPP asked us to come and speak at a public forum on Crime Control with the Ontario Crime Commission, to seek help for finding out what happened to our proposal. We would have welcomed any definite response, yeah or nay. No response. Gave up any expectation of getting an answer. October 18 1998: a call from CCAS, saying a grant of $22,000 had been approved for our proposal. Deadline for acknowledgment: Oct.21. October 20: Ministry of Solicitor General faxed us copy of proposed agreement. It said the grant was “to assist Dufferin Mall Youth Services to provide culturally sensitive counselling and community services to youth.” Called Ms.Frances McKeague to explain that this bore no resemblance to our proposal. She appeared to be unaware of what was in our application, but said the contract could not be changed. New head of Dufferin Mall Youth Services (DMYS) counselled that we should accept the money anyway, split it between DMYS and Dufferin Park. October 21: after consultation, Friends of Dufferin Grove Park faxed a letter to Ms.Frances McKeague saying we could not participate in this project since it bore no resemblance to our application. The same day Ms.McKeague offered the whole grant to Dufferin Mall Youth Services. Their director accepted. October 27: Friends of Dufferin Grove Park faxed Ms.McKeague a request for copy of the government’s original program guidelines, for our records. November 3: Ms.Eve Roknic of the Ministry of the Solicitor General unexpectedly called to say they had changed their minds and decided to go with the original grant application, based at Dufferin Grove Park with counselling support from Dufferin Mall Youth Services. Invited our group to amend the proposal to fit in with the money available. November 5: Proposal amended and signed. December 1: cheque for $22,000 delivered to park by MPP. Director of DMYS revealed on this day that he couldn’t even meet about the project until the end of the year (Dec.28) because he was a full-time law student and exams and holidays were coming. At our request, he sent a proposed DMYS youth worker to meet with Friends of Dufferin Grove Park and City of Toronto Parks and Recreation. Dec.3: the proposed DMYS youth worker revealed that he too was a full-time student and he couldn’t guarantee the 15 hours a week minimum that we needed him to work. Dec. 4: decision was made to use only our own youth workers for the moment so we could start project immediately (original starting date was supposed to be 6 months earlier). Urgency increased by bad situation with threats and unrest in park. Research worker stepped in to be youth worker as well. Hours of all youth work were increased with help of extra hours funded by Parks and Recreation. January 7: director of DMYS called to say he was ready to make plans. Unhappy to learn we began already without them. He said they have other major projects and can’t be made to go faster. Revealed that Dufferin Mall retail education program, part of original proposal, would not be running in winter as planned; not until spring. Head of CCAS was consulted for mediation. He said, just leave it alone. End of attempts to collaborate with DMYS.
It’s our impression that our proposal was not carefully read and that led to early misunderstandings. Also, the very lengthy periods without any response made it hard to plan work collaboratively with another group.
We hereby certify that the above information is true and correct and internal controls were exercised to ensure that all funds allocated to the above activities were used in accordance with the Grant Proposal, and were not used for any other purpose without the agreement of the Ministry.
Jane Price, President, Friends of Dufferin Grove Park
Tino DeCastro, City of Toronto Recreation Supervisor, Parks and Recreation. Financial Statement of revenue and expenditures for this project: In our interim statement, sent October 14 1999, we reported that we had worked with 43 youth in the odd jobs program, spending $14,225 of which $8000 came from the Partners Against Crime grant. When the end of the year statement was put together, we found we had omitted three young workers, bringing the total to 46. The total honoraria came to $15,025 (the final $800 came from a one-time grant from the Maytree Foundation which we sought to cover the three youth (they worked particularly with the parks’ open-air rap “opera,” called Hiphopera). $1000 went to the coordinator/ administrator of the odd jobs program, Lily Weston. $4100 went to the researcher (Jutta Mason) for youth work in the winter and early spring, to replace the DMYS worker who wasn’t available. At the beginning of spring there was a meeting between Parks and Recreation and Friends of Dufferin Grove Park. It was evident that the atmosphere in the park was fractious and at times threatening, and that police-community collaboration was not going well. The park’s supervisor offered to give up the Solicitor General grant’s youth wage allocated to his department in the interest of lengthening of Jutta Mason’s contract, and to go even one better by hiring two additional workers to the project, the cost to be covered by the city. Both of the new Parks youth workers had a shared background if not fully shared cultural expectations with the dominant park youth. In addition to the youth work, Mason continued her research and writing of the community booklet. The $4800 allocated for this was used up before the research was done because of the difficulties of working with the courts and police (see above). However the writing went on -- as did the court visits, police meetings, etc. -- well beyond the end of the grant. Publication of the forthcoming booklet will have to be covered by an additional small grant but there are some interested funders.
Financial statement of Partners against crime grant. Summary:
Youth work: $8200 Honararia for odd jobs for 46 youth: $8000 (out of a total of $15,025) Coordination of odd jobs: $1000 Research and writing: $4800
Total spent: $22,000*
Jane LowBeer, Treasurer, Friends of Dufferin Grove Park.