By Kathryn Stocks

Bill Neadles is the new police superintendent of 43 Division, replacing Mark Fenton who retired as of October 31. Neadles rose up the ranks of the Toronto Police Service after joining 42 years ago on Nov. 1, 1976.

I recently had the opportunity to interview the new superintendent along with Todd Flanders, Community Safety Unit Staff Sergeant and second in command. They said the officer strength of 43 Division is around 260, although it’s somewhat less than that right now. This means that one of their biggest issues is juggling the number of calls for service with the proactive community policing they are trying to undertake.

“We have officers assigned to some of our more vulnerable communities, but because of our officer strength they aren’t out there every day,” Neadles said. “That’s a future endeavour.” They are trying to develop friendships and become part of communities so people feel comfortable speaking to them. As part of this effort, officers have been playing in volleyball tournaments at all eight high schools in 43 Division. They are also trying to reach younger children.

There is still some gang activity in this division, the superintendent said. “Our people have a good idea of who they are and monitor them appropriately.” The Galloway Boys, for instance, are still around but sometimes younger members will break off on their own.

“It typically starts in high school,” Flanders said. “The formal structure is not quite there yet, but they’re developing into a street gang.” Gang members sell guns, drugs, fraud, and do break and enters. Flanders said they’re seeing an increase in human trafficking where the gangs are involved in prostitution. The prostitutes usually come from the vulnerable sector.

Regarding break-ins, Neadles said, “If there is someone in your house at the time you call us, we’re going to come. If you’ve been away for two weeks and you come home and your house has been broken into, there’s a chance we’ll just take that information over the phone.”

Flanders added: “If it’s been months and they’ve lost the opportunity for evidentiary value, you’d likely have a solo officer show up for a follow-up investigation.” They’d canvass the area for anyone who might have seen anything or for video. “There’s a difference between that and a breakin to a car. There’s an online reporting tool for those types of offences.”

They want people to report all incidents because if they’re not aware of it, they don’t know the specific trends that might be occurring. If someone feels their safety is at risk, dial 911. If it’s something less, call in and the officer on the phone will decide which avenue would be best. Parking complaints and accidents can be reported online now.

They encourage people to go to the Community Police Liaison Committee meetings and also come out to the CPLC-led picnic every June. “It’s a really good opportunity to come out and meet some of the officers,” Neadles said. The CPLC meets at 2:15 p.m. at 43 Division on the second Thursday of every month except July and August. The meetings are also live streamed.

Do they have any advice for the residents of Centennial? “You live in a great neighbourhood,” Neadles said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”