A midtown resident created a program called Neighbourhood Watch in 2017 after a local woman was attacked exiting the subway. Recently, the invite-only online group has seen a massive uptick in members primarily due to the new homeless shelters created by the city in response to COVID-19. One of the most significant and most controversial shelters is the Roehampton Hotel.
The shelter was opened this past July and residents were not notified. Now many residents have expressed concerns about criminal activity related to the new shelter.
“I have been overwhelmed with the Roehampton situation from community members,” the program’s founder says.
One local Facebook group created for the safety and security of midtown residents is awash with images, comments, and posts about the city’s new homeless shelters. Councillor Jaye Robinson is a member of the group and has been addressing complaints directly.
“I was completely blindsided by city staff’s decision to open a shelter at the Roehampton Hotel…the many posts in this group – clearly demonstrate that the safety measures in place are insufficient..my team and I have been in constant communication with the Toronto Police and as a result, the 53 Division is working to urgently implement a comprehensive plan to increase patrols in the neighbourhood,” Robinson posted to Facebook.
The Neighbourhood Watch group is part of that patrol plan. Residents seeking to help police identify criminals are joining the carefully coordinated email list sharing photographs, videos and emails. Residents work together to identify criminals or notify other residents of unusual activity.
Recently, the group was able to band together to identify a robber after one member sent a surveillance video to group participants.
The founder of Neighbourhood Watch has presented the concept to 230 neighbourhoods and police divisions across the GTA, with 20 new groups emerging from her marketing efforts. Identifying these programs is easy to do with the group’s telltale “Neighbourhood Watch, We Call Police” signs that also act as deterrents to would-be neighbourhood criminals.