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Chief Julian Fantino, Toronto Police Force.
Dear Chief Fantino,
We are writing to you because in your speech on Monday you said you wanted to reach out to many different parts of the community and that you wanted to ensure there are no barriers between communities and the police. This makes us wonder whether you might want to visit our neighbourhood park in downtown Toronto and let us tell you about what's happening here.
Our park is very heavily used by lots of people. It's a great park but we have some problems with youth behaviours in two parts of the park. These behaviours frighten people. The park staff want to enforce park bylaws such as no drinking and no threats, but they are afraid too -- they feel that some of the youth might endanger them or their families if they challenge them. The police feel that the youth behaviour is not dangerous enough to merit priority response when we see groups drinking and being threatening. Of course, your Community Response officers drive through the park on their regular checks, but that may not be when the real problem behaviours are occurring. Responding fast when we call them is not supposed to be how community policing works.
So our problem keeps getting a bit worse every year. We have been trying, for a few years, to understand how to work together with the police to solve this, but we can't fit ourselves into current police practice. We seem to be falling between the cracks.
Maybe this would be a good time for your department to take a fresh look at community policing and to open up a conversation on how it could work better. Would you be willing to come to our park and meet with some of the park staff and a few community people, so we could discuss this? We have a wood-fired community bake-oven in the park that makes really good pizza and we would be happy to host you for lunch at your convenience.
''' Jane Price Jutta Mason President Secretary'''
P.S. One of us recently sent an open letter to Mayor Lastman on the subject of community policing. If you wanted to find out a bit more about our experiences, please call Jutta Mason at 533-0153 and she'd be happy to fax you a copy.