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Park-police history

By Jutta Mason

In 1995 it was observed that attendance at the park's skating rink had been steadily dropping for some years. The "McCormicks" and the "Brock Boys" may have contributed to this situation by claiming the rink as their turf. The rink staff either hid in the garage or were part of the ruling faction. This situation, while not uncommon in city rinks, seemed unacceptable, and together with the new manager of the park, some people in the neighborhood resolved to change it.

We worked out a number of approaches, including making the rink more family-friendly, introducing a snack bar with nutritious food, adding special events, hiring more mature staff, hiring some female staff, and stepping up rink supervision. Rules of acceptable behaviour were prominently posted and staff began to make them stick. Changes were made to the building with volunteer and city labour, to eliminate hidden areas and to make the rink house a more pleasant, neighbourly place.

Attempts to work with police on park safety were up and down. So in November 1997, a group of us went to call on Superintendent Cowling of Fourteen Division to ask for a particular type of assistance in our clean-up project. We wanted to get a timely response for the occasions when we needed help with rink users who wanted to defy staff authority and bring back the old ways.

We were told that public space has no special standing and that calls from the park would have to be treated the same as calls from any other citizen. We could get no acceptance for the idea that public space faces particular, sometimes unique, problems.

Because we needed an assurance of a timely response as we were working on he changeover, the city's Park Department stopped trying to rely on the city's police service for help and hired a private security company to be on call, for the first winter only, whenever a rink problem came up.

That year, the number of recorded rink confrontations rose sharply, to 21. This showed the early struggles of our resolve to address unacceptable behaviour. In subsequent years the number of recorded incidents of unlawful behaviour during the rink season decreased to 9, to 3, and then to 1. Rink attendance increased correspondingly, to the point where there were many weeks with over 1500, sometimes as high as 2400, visits a week.

Solicitor General grant report

Partners against Crime: Community Crime Prevention Grant
Final evaluation.

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.

Solicitor General Grant Report Cover Letter

Sept.21, 2001

Ms. Nancy Higgins, Co-ordinator, Crime Prevention and Policing Programs, Program Development Section, Policing Services Division, Ministry of the Solicitor General, Government of Ontario.

25 Grosvenor Street, 12th Floor, Toronto ON, M7A 2H3.

Dear Ms.Higgins,

Here is the final evaluation and final financial statement of the Dufferin Grove Park “Partners Against Crime” project. As your letter points out, the end of our funding came almost two years ago, so that our report is very overdue.

The fact is, we never stopped working on this and therefore we never declared an “end.” 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, which will allow all citizens maximum enjoyment of our commons. To stop working at this task is not an option.

Police Correspondence

June 1, 2008

Mr. William Blair, Chief of Police, City of Toronto.

Dear Chief Blair,

I am writing to alert you to some problematic actions by officers of Fourteen Division, at a park in downtown Toronto. This letter is prompted by an event at Dufferin Grove Park about three weeks ago, but there is a history that is a good deal longer.

October 29, 2007

Supt.Ruth White, Fourteen Division, Toronto Police Service,
150 Harrison Street, Toronto M5T 1L4

Dear Superintendent White,

We’ve been meaning to come and see you for some time. Now something has moved that intention higher on our agenda.

August 16, 2006

Supt.Ruth White, Fourteen Division, Toronto Police Service,
150 Harrison Street, Toronto M6G 2A4

Dear Superintendent White,

Yesterday in mid-morning an officer from Fourteen Division sat in his vehicle in Dufferin Grove Park with his engine idling for about half an hour, on the grass near the basketball court. A number of people asked him if there was a problem. He indicated that he was just doing preventive policing because the park has lots of drug dealing.

October 2nd, 2005

Dear Staff Sgt. Besenthal,

Another incident with a Fourteen Division officer occurred at Dufferin Grove Park on Saturday Oct.1. Officer #5649 was at the park doing special duty for part of the Native Child and Family Services seventh annual Pow Wow. At one point in the afternoon, as the officer questioned a youth, she cautioned a park staff person and several park users who were standing nearby watching, warning them to go away.

August 22, 2005

Superintendent James Dicks, Fourteen Division, Toronto Police Service,
150 Harrison St., Toronto, ON , M6J 2A4

Dear Superintendent Dicks,

I have been meaning to send you a copy of the July 2005 Dufferin Grove Park newsletter, which contains an article “The Police need our help.” Some of us in the neighbourhood are concerned that some of your newer officers are operating in a bubble – that they know less about the neighbourhood than they ought, and that this will interfere with their work. It can also have a negative affect on the neighbourhood, in this case, on the park.

January 26, 2004

Mr.Alan Heisey, Police Services Board,City of Toronto

Dear Mr.Heisey,

We have recently read in the paper that you have an interest in community policing that you bring to your position on the Police Services Board. Our concern about the disappearance of community policing leads us to write to you, and to send you the enclosed account, from our December park newsletter.

October 19, 2000

Staff Sergeant Glen Holt, Fourteen Division Community Response, Toronto Police Service.'''

Dear Staff Sergeant Holt,

This is a follow-up letter to your phone call to me at Dufferin Grove Park on October 18, about the September 3 group beating of a young man at the park. I trust you will have received the documents you asked for, by fax.

September 20, 2000.

Superintendent Paul Gottschalk, Officer-in-Chief, Fourteen Division, Toronto Police Service.
150 Harrison Street, Toronto M6J 2A4.

Dear Supt.Gottschalk,

March 8, 2000

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.


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Content last modified on June 03, 2008, at 12:15 PM EST