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City, province unveil 'block by block' campaign to prevent crime

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The province unveiled a new way to fight crime today that doesn’t involved hiring more police officers or building more jails.

Instead Premier Greg Selinger said the Block By Block Community Safety Initiative — to be deployed in a 21-block area in the city’s North End — will focus more on better communication between community groups, social and health agencies, schools and police.

In practical terms, a family experiencing substance abuse or domestic violence could be identified first through a school — if a child stops attending classes, for example — or a health-care agency. Appropriate services will then be channeled the family’s way, the idea being the family gets the help it needs before issues result in police being called.

The province will spend $600,000 over three years towards the pilot project which is based on a similar program in Prince Albert, Sask.

"There have been examples all across the world of where this has worked in other places," Selinger said. "This one will develop its own unique identity and personality and shape itself to the characteristics of the community."

Heather Leeman of the North End Women’s Centre will be the project’s executive director and it will be governed by a steering committee co-chaired by Justice Minister Andrew Swan and family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross.

The province also says by identifying barriers between various groups, new policies may be developed and applied in other parts of the province.

Police Chief Devon Clunis said the ultimate goal for police is a healthier community and fewer calls for service for frontline officers.

"Right now we don’t have that full wrap-around support," Clunis said. "Often times we’re working in isolation. We’ll be doing our piece. The schools will be doing their piece, social service agencies are doing their piece. With this we’re going to be meeting on a regular basis, talking, communicating and focusing our resources."

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