Monday, July 6, 2015

Look to Japan for a Better, Cheaper Way to Police our Cities



This reads like an attack of common sense. It becomes completely possible to know the residents of twenty blocks and you will never be more than three blocks away if you are needed.  Even better, the level of training needed is naturally lower which means it can be almost a cadet system of young men and women.

 Even better you will have a natural relationship with any young hoodlums causing problems and you do know who is using drugs.  All this means excellent intelligence and been in position to secure a site and call in experts when needed.  Even better you know who becomes drunk and violent and this allows better calls when the inevitable does happen.

 With the ending of drug prohibition now evolving, it is time to evolve a cheaper less militarized police force.  The organized element will be losing their core revenue and that chills the sector out wonderfully.

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Susan J. McArthur: Look to Japan for a better, cheaper way to police our cities



Susan J. McArthur, National Post |


Kiyoshi Ota/BloombergJapan's model of policing, with small detachments spread throughout each neighbourhood in a city, has a 100-year record of success.

Today we have distributed computing, distributed power and the beginnings of distributed farming. 


  “Distributed” is a hot business concept and means services and products are produced in close proximity to the consumer. It saves money by cutting transportation costs and enables the provider to tailor its product to their consumers in real time. In policing, this concept is called Neighbourhood Policing or Koban, a practice pioneered by the Japanese in the late 1800s.


With Toronto’s raging debate about “carding” and racial profiling and the acute problems facing police forces in some North American cities, Koban style “distributed” policing should be made a priority.  Today in Toronto, police officers operate largely out of monolithic divisional headquarters or police cars. Occasionally you encounter a police officer on their bike or on horseback. The community interaction is not a physical presence but largely through special services. In 2001, then police chief Bill Blair created the Divisional Policing Support Unit, in an effort to create structural links with communities. And while this initiative is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough.

The officers become experts in their community, developing close relationships with the citizens they are charged with protecting

In Japan’s major cities they have artfully integrated the physical presence of their police within local communities. Each Koban unit has anywhere from two to 20 officers and there are over 6,000 Koban across Japan’s major cities, each covering approximately 20 blocks. The officers become experts in their community, developing close relationships with the citizens they are charged with protecting. Part of the mandate of the Koban is to complete a regular census that enables them to understand the vulnerabilities within their community. The relationships developed between the police and the policed help establish trust, an essential ingredient in a successful police force.
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The system works. According to information gathered by Numbeo, Tokyo’s crime index is 20.69 vs. 32.46 for Toronto, and Japan’s safety scale, at 79.31, is 11 points higher than Toronto’s.

Imagine living in a city where you know your police officer by name. Like your local barista, you would have daily contact with officers

The ability to implement a Koban style policing effort has never been easier. Mobile communication has changed the way we all live. Why not the way we police? Small trailers or booths located within Toronto’s neighbourhoods could be equipped with all the necessities of a modern police force at a fraction of the price it would have cost 10 years ago. Toronto would likely be able to reduce its policing budget and might even generate some cash for the city by selling its well located, valuable real estate.


Imagine living in a city where you know your police officer by name. Like your local barista, you would have daily contact with officers and on a human level, not through the glass of a cruiser driving through your neighbourhood. You would encounter officers not just when you need them but in the normal course of our daily lives.


The good news is while cities need to rethink how they police, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel. The Koban system has a long history of success and can easily be adopted here. Toronto has a new mayor and a new chief of police. It’s the perfect opportunity for a fresh look at a common sense approach to establishing a community-policing model that has a 100-plus year track record of success.


National Post

Susan J. McArthur is a managing partner at Greensoil Investments.

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