Councillor, Giorgio Mammoliti is accustomed to hearing feedback from area residents and businesses. He hears the good and the bad. A number of years ago, however, he was hearing much less good than he cared for, and realized that some of the issues that people spoke to him about were not improving.
Worse still this negative feedback was a drag on the reputation of the area, which in turn, was hurting business and reputable business development; reputable being the operative word as illegal ‘booze cans’ and massage parlours lured less than savoury characters into the village. “Nothing nice happens at these places at three in the morning,” relates Mammoliti.
However, noticing a problem is one thing, what to do about it is quite another. Borrowing from the “broken window” philosophy, which suggests that a problem left unattended encourages more problems to develop because it sends a message that nobody cares, Mammoliti took it upon himself to become personally involved with the efforts to dislodge the unsavoury, illegal businesses. Putting his name to personally delivered messages to the tenants of the establishments, explaining the community’s dissatisfaction with the nature and hours of the business was an opening salvo. This, combined with telephone calls to landlords and insurance companies of the wayward operators, and friendly visits at opportune times from a strong contingent of Emery Village’s finest, proved a pretty-good formula to discourage the wouldbe operators and patrons of illicit businesses from continuing their efforts in the Village.
Ironically, the visits from police, that Mammoliti insisted on attending, prompted some unique dress choices for a municipal politician. Worried that the councillor would be at risk during the late night processes, police proposed some attire. “They suggested I get a bullet proof vest. I didn’t want to but I did,” Mammoliti explains.
Fast forward a few years, and it appears that progress has been made. Mammoliti is pleased with the combined efforts of public engagement and good ‘old fashioned’ policing that has almost “eradicated” the worst of the illegal businesses.
By-law changes and enforcement are helping to keep bad elements out too. In an effort to establish the reputation of a bar or restaurant up front: “Any liquor license request has to include a personal visit by me first,” notes George, saying that the City can place restrictions on a license that can include location, style, hours of operation and even the type of music played within. Staff Sergeant Richard Blanchard, manager of the Community Response Unit at 31 Division of the Toronto Police, agrees that ongoing communication with the public and an integrated response effort is paying off.
The Neighbourhood Community Police Liason Committee (NCPLC) has been an important part of their efforts to identify specific concerns in a neighbourhood. “What’s a concern in one neighbourhood is not necessarily the concern of another,” Blanchard notes. NCPLC meetings, held every three months, allow the public to identify specific issues of concern whether that be gangs, drug dealing, phone scams, illegal businesses, unsafe roadways or other issues.
After problems are identified, “safety audit walks” are established where community members can walk the area with uniformed police. This firsthand observation is followed up with a specific action plan involving appropriate people. They could include engaging political officials, directed patrols by uniform officers, follow-up with various regulation enforcement offices, or even plain clothes officer patrols. “There are many resources at our disposal,” says Blanchard.
This ongoing vigilance, along with private security measures, like those offered by the Emery Village BIA for area businesses allows a confidence necessary to attract new developments and new businesses, and in-turn new jobs and demand for housing within the Village Mammoliti believes. That feeling is assisted by street level improvements like better sidewalks, waste disposal units, benches and other mundane, but nonetheless important elements that are paid for in equal parts by developers, the City of Toronto and the BIA.
Clearly the work is ongoing, but with measures in place and engaged citizens, Mammoliti has reason to be optimistic and so do the residents and businesses of Emery Village.