By Trevor Busch
Youth in the community are largely satisfied with the conduct and operations of the Taber Police Service, according to a new survey prepared by Sr. Cst. Andrew Evanson.
Presented to the Taber Municipal Police Commission at their Nov. 10 regular meeting, the Taber Police Youth Survey 2016 fielded questions surrounding law enforcement to youth in the community ages 13-19 via an online e-survey instrument (www.surveymonkey.com). The survey was conducted from May 11 to June 9, and saw 361 respondents.
“I believe the findings clearly show the value in the program (School Resource Officer) and that it definitely assists the school organizations with the effective operation of the schools,” said School Resource Officer Dave Gyepesi, in a written addendum to the survey from the perspective of his own role. “The program is also an asset to the community with the continued interaction and rapport building with the youth of our community integral to molding successful community contributors.”
Those who accessed the survey were asked a series of 34 questions ranging from multiple choice, ranking, and short answer responses, including questions to test the knowledge of the youth regarding local and provincial law. Based on the overall results, the majority of respondents were female, between 16-17 years of age, were not employed, and participated in extra-curricular activities.
“Using the School Resource Officer perspective, I find that based on the survey results not much would need to change in regards to the service delivery of the program,” continued Gyepesi in his written report. “Presence would be a key element, and I have continued to be present and available for the staff and the students of the schools. One area of concern I have identified is the lack of social media interaction between the youth and the Taber Police Service. One solution is to increase the use of our SRO social media platforms. Currently they get used but not on a regular basis as I have focused more on face to face interactions.”
Note: The following is not a comprehensive list of all questions and responses, but is a representation of selected highlights of the survey.
1) Please tell us if you agree or disagree with the statement “Taber is a safe place to live”?
Strongly Agree: 13.17 per cent, 42 respondents. Agree: 61.44 per cent, 196 respondents. Unsure: 18.18 per cent, 58 respondents. Disagree: 5.64 per cent, 18 respondents. Strongly Disagree: 1.57 per cent, five respondents.
2) Please tell us if you agree with the statement “The Taber Police Service does a good job in keeping me safe”.
Strongly Agree: 17.24 per cent, 55 respondents. Agree: 60.50 per cent, 193 respondents. Unsure: 16.30 per cent, 52 respondents. Disagree: 3.76 per cent, 12 respondents. Strongly Disagree: 2.19 per cent, seven respondents.
3) In your opinion, how do you believe the Taber police perceive youth?
Positively: 79 per cent. Negatively: 21 per cent.
4) What is your greatest safety/crime concern?
Drugs: 25 per cent. Concerns involving the Mennonite population: Seven per cent.
5) Do you feel safe in the Taber community at night?
Yes: 76.49 per cent. No: 23.51 per cent.
6) Did you know that the Town of Taber has a bylaw curfew for youth under the age of 16?
Yes: 82.76 per cent. No: 17.24 per cent.
7) Do you think young people report crime to the police?
Yes: 46.15 per cent. No: 53.85 per cent.
8) If you were in danger or had been harmed, would you report it to the police?
Yes: 86.86 per cent. No: 13.14 per cent. According to the survey, “Respondents’ comments indicated that they were either too scared to report problems to police or that it was not favourable to be labeled a ‘snitch’ in reporting crimes to the police. These two issues made up a total of almost 40 per cent of the comments shared by respondents”.
9) Have you been a victim of crime?
Yes: 24.52 per cent. No: 75.48 per cent. According to the survey, “Close to 20 per cent of respondents’ comments indicated that they were somehow victimized by theft related offence. The next popular theme from respondents’ comments surrounded some form of harassment, either from bullying or from the harassment being sexual in nature. This harassment theme accounted for around six per cent of the comments shared.”
10) Who did you report this crime to?
Police: 36.36 per cent. Parent: 45.45 per cent. Principal: 11.69 per cent. Counselor: 11.69 per cent. Other Adult: 19.48 per cent. Friend: 29.87 per cent. Sibling: 22.08 per cent. Not reported: 32.47 per cent.
11) Do you agree or disagree with the statement, “The Taber Police Service and/or its members are involved in the community?”
Agree: 82.41 per cent. Disagree: 17.59 per cent.
12) What public activity areas in Taber would you like to see the police visit more often?
Playgrounds/school grounds: 22.80 per cent. Community Centre/hockey rink: 18.57 per cent. Aquafun Centre: 2.28 per cent. Skate Park: 39.74 per cent. Spray Park: 4.23 per cent. Library: 12.38 per cent.
Although the survey recorded mostly positive data in a number of key areas, there were problems with some of the information collected which tend to skew the results, especially with the regard to the location of most of the respondents.
According to the survey report, “unfortunately the results showed that the vast majority of respondents indicated they attended W.R. Myers High School, with only a minor amount of respondents indicating they attended other schools within Taber.”
Of the students that did respond to the survey, some 87 per cent were from W.R. Myers High School, followed by 8.67 per cent from Taber Mennonite School, 2.67 per cent from ACE Place Learning Centre, one per cent from other schools or home schooled students, and 0.33 per cent from Taber Christian Alternative School and 0.33 per cent from St. Mary’s School.
“Another area of concern that I noticed was the low percentage of youth reporting crime,” said Gyepesi in his report. “A common theme was the perception that one would be a snitch if they reported activity. I have actively been working on this area by getting student input during my presentations and providing concrete examples of situations where their information could be helpful and possibly life saving. I will continue with this effort.”