By Trevor Busch
Refocusing its mandate and revitalizing the membership with a focus on community participation are key goals of the Taber Community Action and Prevention Society in 2019.
At the May 22 meeting of the Taber Municipal Police Commission, Chair Ken Holst — who recently took over as president of the society — sought feedback from commissioners about a need to refocus the organization to meet new challenges such as a rise in drug abuse problems plaguing the community.
“We’re really looking, taking a step back and trying to decide what direction TCAPS needs to go. Historically in the last couple of years, especially in the last year for sure, it’s been — I’m using the term ‘spinning its tires.’ A lot of meetings, a lot of talk, and things happening that way, but not a lot of action plan, not a lot of getting things done. Not to the fault of anyone that’s been involved there, there’s been some great work done in the past, and things that are going on. Historically, as a society, it was helping start-ups, they were helping people obtain grants for societies, projects they might have seen in Taber, whether they directly related to an action or prevention issue in Taber or not. That’s sort of the purpose that it served.”
Known informally by its acronym, TCAPS, it is also the parent organization for another local group, Taber Community Against Drugs (TCAD), on which Holst also serves as a board member. Taber Police Service Chief Graham Abela explained some of the past initiatives of TCAPS and its original mandate.
“TCAPS has been an umbrella organization for several committees in the town. Some of the work that you would be familiar with, is they were the catalyst and the builders of the women’s shelter (Safe Haven Women’s Shelter). Twenty-three years ago when there was a gap that was identified in the community as something that was needed, and members of TCAPS at that time — Helen Wentz and the group — got together and spearheaded a grassroots approach, community-based approach, to look at developing services for women and youth. That became the basis for the women’s shelter, and then once it got off the ground and gathered momentum and they became their own society, TCAPS quietly passed that off. The food bank got started from an initiative through TCAPS, the same type of process. The victim’s services unit started because of TCAPS. They did a presentation that it was needed, and the Southern Alberta Victims Services Association was created, and we started building from there, and we still maintain victim’s services to this day.”
With drug and corresponding crime issues arising in Taber with a troubling frequency in early 2019, Holst wanted to know if this should be an area of main focus for the group moving forward.
“Sort of the direction that we feel now that we’re going is a little bit different, to kind of address — with what we’re talking about here today, and what we know about what’s going on in the community whether it be drug-related, or crime-related, or social-economical issues that are going on, particularly with our youth but with everyone — we’re wanting to try to find a way, again, for action and prevention, how we best take action, and how we best prevent some of this going on as the name of that group implies. So we’re really just doing some strategic planning, we’ve got some ideas on what we want to do, and ways that we want to go, but we want to involve a lot of different groups — whether it’s service groups, whether it’s churches, the police commission, or town council, or businesses — we think this is a real problem we have in Taber, and that Taber’s worth fighting for. And that’s not the only problem, drugs and socio-economics, but right now we almost want to kind of act as a vehicle to bring all of those efforts that might be out there together as one.”
Abela pointed out that the current group is made up largely of paid representatives from various organizations, but is now decidedly short on local volunteers from the grassroots.
“What I see in TCAPS right now is we have individuals that are paid to be there — including myself — to be at the table, and going to meetings every third Thursday. We sit around and we talk about things that are happening in the community. What I don’t see is the community. Within TCAPS I don’t see individuals from the community that are interested in the community to build community capacity around what we need to do in our community. And that’s what TCAPS is for.”
While dedicated to maintaining a partnership to assist in crime prevention, Abela didn’t mince words about the need for a significant revitalization.
“When I was president of TCAPS, I’ve seen as many as 30 people around the table, and I’ve seen it as many as four. It needs reinvigoration, it needs revisioning, and it needs reconstituting with individuals from the community that can make that happen. It’s a partnership, and it’s a huge partnership from the community policing perspective if we’re looking at both the police being the community and the community being the police, in order to assist in crime prevention and in making Taber a safe place. That partnership is essential, and that needs to flourish. So whatever we can do as a police service to assist them, we will, from my operation side. From your governing side, I think it’s awesome that you’re talking about it at this level to discuss strategies in which the commission could partner, or gather momentum to have others assist.”
Beyond the desire for enhanced participation and volunteerism in association with TCAPS, Holst signaled a need for increasing the organization’s profile among Taber residents.
“One of the big steps is we need to get some information out there. I’ll bet if you were to ask 10 people on the street you’d probably only get one out of 10 — at best — that knows what TCAPS is, or that TCAPS exists right now in Taber. So we hope to have some information campaigns where we go to the different groups once we kind of have a direction.”