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YRP receives $3.7M to increase community safety

Project United received $300,000; bail programs received $2.4 million; and next-generation 911 received $1 million

York Regional Police received $3.7 million over three years in funding from the government of Ontario to allocate toward four projects in three areas to help increase safety in the region.

The funding comes through a grant with $300,000 of it coming from proceeds of crime.

Each project was targeted by York Regional Police as needing additional funding to ensure an increase in public safety going forward. Project United, which combats hate crime, received $300,000; the bail compliance and warrant apprehension program and enhanced bail enforcement project received $2.4 million; and next-generation 911 received $1 million.

Project United is a targeted response to the growing issue of hate crime in York Region, said Chief Jim MacSween. There was a 42 per cent increase in 2022 in hate crimes and a 6.5 per cent increase in 2023.

“We’ve seen a disturbing rise in crime motivated by bias and prejudice since 2018,” he said. “Since the war in the Middle East began in October of 2023, the number of hate or bias incidents has risen by 104.5 per cent.”

MacSween said that the numbers should be alarming to everyone and Project United will take a multifaceted approach to combat the trend. It will include specialized training for officers, increased community education and outreach and educational resources for York Region students, such as conferences and forums.

The project will increase community engagement with online monitoring and enhance York Regional Police’s community partnerships to educate the public on recognizing and reporting these incidents.

“We know they’re typically unreported,” said MacSween. “By focusing on proactive, preventive strategies, Project United is aimed at building trust and understanding within our community.”

The funding for the bail compliance and warrant apprehension program will augment York Regional Police’s warrant apprehension and community supervision enforcement team, which manages offenders on bail, community supervision or those with outstanding warrants.

This team is responsible for investigating the whereabouts of violent offenders wanted on warrants and the management of offenders released into the community on probation, provincial parole and conditional supervision orders.

“Bail is a big problem here in the country, not just York Region,” said MacSween. “We’ve seen way too many officers lose their lives at the hands of violent repeat offenders in the last year.”

The enhanced bail enforcement project will centralize bail intake across York Region, including release orders and variances issued by the Ontario and Superior Courts of Justice in Newmarket, as well as those from the courts in Toronto. 

The enhanced bail enforcement team will triage, complete data entry and dissemination to other members of the organization through an in-house bail compliance dashboard. Bail compliance efforts and outcomes will be captured for data analysis and performance measurement, providing real-time data to inform our bail management approach.

“This will result in improved community safety by holding offenders accountable,” said MacSween. “We’ve made a real push on addressing this gap on how offenders are managed appropriately out in the community. It’s had a significant impact on all of our communities.”

The funding of the next-generation 911 project will help ensure the transition to NG911 systems for York Regional Police, per the Canadian Radio and Television Telecommunications Commission’s mandate.

“The new system is designed to ensure there’s no single point of failure,” MacSween said.

NG911 systems enhance the capabilities of 911 networks by allowing compatibility with more types of communication, providing greater situational awareness to dispatchers and emergency responders, and establishing a level of resiliency not previously possible.

“Telecommunications networks have evolved significantly over the years,” said MacSween. “Modernizing these networks will result in voice, text, and multimedia services. Including the capability to send and receive texts, videos, and photos.”

The NG911 system will also include interactive mapping, automatic call and text-back features, and a standalone facility for dispatchers and callers.

“We’re pleased that seized cash and proceeds of crime are being reinvested back into the community in ways that will enhance community safety in York Region,” said MacSween. “We are committed to advancing these important initiatives, aided by this additional funding.”