After the Webinar Hot and Harm Spots in Barrie Using the Canadian Crime Severity Index for Effective Deployment. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Rich Johnston, Madison Charman, and Randy Fitzgerald answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Hot and Harm Spots in Barrie: Using the Canadian Crime Severity Index for Effective Deployment. Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: Much of this work relies on police data. Have you considered different datasets, including perceived hotspots from the public or from police experience? 

Rich Johnston: There is some great research out there on signaling crimes and things that were unaware of. Less than 3% of sexual assaults are actually reported to the police for a host of reasons. We’re not going to speak to those, but the reality is, that this is the information we have available to us. Jerry Radcliffe’s gravity score in Philadelphia included some other datasets. There’s some great evidence out there or information with respect to ambulance data, and health data if you have access to it. We are challenged in our province with our Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the sharing of datasets. There’s opportunity here, absolutely. And can you enrich your datasets to perhaps see a little bit of a or shed some light on those areas, completely agree. Some of the advocacy groups or places, I’m thinking of a Women’s Shelters where intimate partner violence may be reported at a greater rate cannot influence police response or direction of resources, potentially. It’s not that we haven’t, it’s that we’re using what we have available to us immediately. And trying to at least start somewhere. Completely agree with you, though. There are so many datasets out there.

Madison Charman: Yeah, and I know, you also mentioned hotspots perceived by the public. That is something that we actively are working with. So, we really do have to balance that data versus perception and understand we need to respond to our community. But we also need to really focus those expensive resources where they need to go. That’s something we’ve tried to balance with our high harm team and our community engagement team, but that is absolutely something we haven’t figured out yet, and we’re still trying to navigate how to address that in a way that balances both.


Audience Question: Does the Police Service share Harm Spot mapping information with the public such as during community meetings or online? If so, what challenges and benefits have you experienced?

Rich Johnston: Again, great question. So, we’ve just started doing it this year, as you can appreciate. And we did present to our city council, although virtually given the pandemic. And spoke to why we’re doing what we’re doing and it trying to get that a broader level buy-in. So far, we haven’t exposed the community to that, it is our hope.

Madison Charman: Yeah, we’ve even talked about potentially considering it in our next annual report. How do we introduce a new metric to the public regarding public safety? Because, situating yourself in the metric if you have a score of 7000, does that cause panic? Are we calm? How do we communicate that? We have to show the reference points. And that’s really where it becomes a multi-unit collaboration because we’ve worked with our corporate communications to figure out how do we potentially create this education plan for the public. I know a couple of other services have public crime volume-based mapping, if we did a harm-based mapping that was publicly available. What would that look like? But I think right now, we’re still trying to figure out and work out the kinks within our own data before we want to share that and are definitively putting our stamp on the number that we’re putting out. But we’ve absolutely considered that in the next couple of years, including that in our annual report and sharing out with the public.


Audience Question: So, are you aware of any US agencies that are using a similar harm index type approach? 

Rich Johnston: We are not, I do know that Renee Mitchell – she is with the American Society for Evidence Based Policing did her doctorate out in California using their penal code. A little different setup doesn’t make it impossible, but greater challenges south of the 49th Parallel is that… We, in Canada, have the criminal code of Canada. And so, it applies across the nation, and that was across the board in terms of all Canadian jurisdictions that they can actually apply this. And we’re all sharing the same UCR Now, south of the border. I wouldn’t know, and I can’t speak a, basically, yeah.


Audience Question: Does the harm index only measure physical harm? If yes, is there a tool to measure the psychological or mental impact of crime and disorder? 

Rich Johnston: So, this is where we get into a little bit of the concept. When you take into account the individual experience of the harm from crime, it becomes, if it was that bespoke system, it gets into the, not to the arbitrary, but the example used to try to explain to the public and in particulars. I’ll use my mom as an example, so she loves garden gnomes. I can’t stand them, but she absolutely adores them. If someone broke one of her garden gnomes, it would be devastating to her. Again, in terms of where someone, who perhaps engages in a riskier lifestyle experiences an assault where there’s actual physical harm, they may view that, not to minimize it, as a typical part of their daily experience. And, in terms of the societal contexts but, in reality, far greater than the loss of a magnificent garden gnome. But the reality is they experience that differently. We are not weighing into those individual experiences, because then it becomes unmanageable in terms of trying to put a weight on it on a broader level.


Audience Question: Can you talk about what kinds of issues you ran into in terms of making the source data useful for this mapping? 

Madison Charman: So, we ran into a lot of data quality issues, even things as little as addresses and cleaning addresses having duplicates, having to combine to get more accurate lat-longs as opposed to hitting cell phone tower with our CAD data, then getting accurate resident data through our niche. So, there was and still continues to be quite a process with data and making it useful and operational. So, that is something we’re still working through. But, again, you can always send me an e-mail, and we can set up a meeting with people who are much more well-versed in that issue than I am. And we can go into it a little more if you need to.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Hot and Harm Spots in Barrie: Using the Canadian Crime Severity Index for Effective Deployment.  


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