Prince Albert's successful crime-prevention program has two components.
The Hub is for short-term casework; the COR (Centre of Responsibility) is for longer-term studies to find patterns in cases in the Saskatchewan city and determine what's working and what's not.
The Hub is made up of representatives from police, social work, education and public health. They meet twice weekly and bring in cases they think could use a team approach. This could include, for example, behavioural problems at school that might be linked to abuse at home, or break-and-enter charges used to feed an addiction. From there, the team develops a strategy tailored for each case. That could mean police, case workers and psychologists showing up at a family's home all at once, inviting a family in for an informal conversation, or a social worker making the initial contact to explain the program.
The Hub has dealt with 423 cases since its inception in February, 2011. Many have to do with child welfare: issues such as housing, addiction, mental health and domestic violence. Between February, 2011, and April, 2012, social services diverted 109 cases to the integrated approach.
The COR has full-time staff seconded from different agencies to focus on more systemic, long-term issues: How do you deal with alcoholism? Is it worthwhile to establish a "wet house" where addicts can get alcohol in a safe environment? Is it worth pursuing legislation that would allow detoxification units to keep youth there against their will?
"The issues are obvious. There hasn't traditionally been this method of dealing with them before," says Constable Matt Gray. "It's pretty satisfying, after 15 years of policing … to help people instead of just bandaging the situation."
The numbers back them up: After three consecutive years of increases, crime rates dropped between 2010 and 2011 on multiple metrics. The total number of occurrences dipped almost 12 per cent; the number of missing-person calls (largely for youth who have left home or foster care) dropped 52 per cent.
The integrated program has become so popular, says child and family services manager Isla Wilcox, it motivates people to actually ask for help.
"People say … 'I'm not afraid to call you guys now.' "