Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (Details)

Name of province/ territory:


City/ Region:


Description of Initiative:

The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) is an intensive, violence reduction and community mobilization strategy intended to reduce crime and increase safety in our neighbourhoods; it is a multi-pronged approach to solving community problems. The TAVIS initiative is comprised of three distinct branches. These branches of TAVIS compliment each other and all strive to achieve the ultimate goal of TAVIS which is to reduce crime and increase safety.

Rapid Response Team (RRT):

The Rapid Response Teams are comprised of four teams, each with 18 officers. Their mandate is to perform high-visibility policing and enforcement in high-crime and high-risk neighbourhoods based on intelligence-led policing information. They are deployed across the city to:

  • support the local division’s neighbourhood plans;
  • participate in major street gang takedowns;
  • patrol neighbourhoods to maintain order and reassure community members, especially after a violent event; and
  • provide additional support to regular patrols in the “Entertainment District” on weekends and holidays (this is an area with a high concentration of night clubs and bars in the downtown core).

Neighbourhood TAVIS Initiative (NTI):

During the summer months, additional TAVIS officers are assigned to neighbourhoods experiencing a heightened level of violent crime. The primary focus of the NTI is to mobilize the community, in partnership with other agencies and community organizations; they empower communities to find sustainable solutions to localized problems. Neighbourhoods are chosen using crime trend analysis, occurrence mapping and community consultation. These areas are identified because they are experiencing a disproportionate level of criminal activity for their size.

Each year, two to three neighbourhoods are identified and each area receives a complement of an additional 24 officers (four teams of six officers) for the duration of the NTI. Officers that are assigned to the police division in those areas are selected for the NTI as they are familiar with the neighbourhoods and the community. Their frontline policing positions are then temporarily back-filled by officers transferred in from various units across the city. Some initiatives NTI officers engage in include:

  • coordinating and facilitating youth programs;
  • crime prevention activities;
  • neighbourhood beautification projects; and
  • graffiti removal.

Divisional TAVIS Callbacks:

Each of TPS’s 17 divisions is required to have a TAVIS strategic plan, and a portion of the provincial financial grant is allocated to overtime as “Divisional Callbacks.” When specific neighbourhoods within the police division are experiencing a chronic or acute escalation in violence, divisions will “call back” off-duty officers to perform high-visibility policing and enforcement in the specified area. Normally, these teams will work in groups of four to six officers along with a supervisor. The purpose is to act on the intelligence-led data and to reassure community members that the police are in their neighbourhoods dealing with an escalation in violence and contributing more directly to their feeling of safety.

Initiative Key Objectives:

The initiative has several objectives:

  • reduce violence;
  • increase safety in the community;
  • improve the quality of life for members of the high-risk communities;
  • reduce the number of offenders engaged in violent crime;
  • reduce the opportunity to commit crime within neighbourhoods identified as being “at risk”;
  • reduce victimization by violent crime; and
  • increase the capacity of the community to work independently of the police to reduce crime and improve community safety.

Section Responsible for Implementation:

Divisional Policing Command

Key Contact:

Chris Fernandes

Groups/ Agencies/ Key Partners Involved:

  • community groups
  • private agencies/corporations
  • other government departments/agencies
  • academic institutes (research and evaluation)

Level of Involvement (consultative - information sharing) and/or cooperative - direct involvement):

The direct involvement of non-police agencies is criticial to the success of TAVIS. The ultimate success of the Neighbourhood TAVIS Initiative (NTI) program specifically relies on the police working in partnership with government organizations and community agencies. The role of the NTI officer is to be a facilitator and liaison between the community and these organizations. The ultimate goal is to have a community that is self-sustained with a reduced dependency on police resources.

TAVIS also relies on its enforcement partners, such as Toronto Community Housing, for valuable two-way information sharing in the form of intelligence. Meetings are regularly held for information-sharing purposes. The most common information shared is related to officer safety and persons of interest. Other Toronto social agencies are partnered with for problem resolution and collaboration to increase the feeling of safety.

Amount of Time Initiative has been in Place:

This strategy commenced in 2006 in response to a spike in gun violence within the city of Toronto.

Reason for Undertaking the Initiative:

The year 2005 saw an unprecedented number of shootings in Toronto. In 2006, the TAVIS strategy and its initiative were formed to address the escalating violence in the city. The provincial government awarded the TPS an annual $5 million grant to assist in the reduction of violent crime in Toronto through implementation of this strategy.

Resources Required to Implement this Initiative:

Some administrative costs were generated as a result of TAVIS (e.g., hiring some clerical staff). The officers working TAVIS RRTs were redeployed from various units across the service. The associated overtime and callback costs for the TAVIS RRT and NTI officers and support units doing TAVIS-related activities are covered by the $5 million provincial grant.

Method of Implementation:

TAVIS was implemented as a project in 2006 with the inception of the TAVIS RRT. This project ran year-round, deploying teams of officers in high-crime, high-risk neighbourhoods based on intelligence-led policing information. Two years later, the NTI was formed (then called Focused Neighbourhood TAVIS Deployment) and has continued to be utilized during the summer months in neighbourhoods experiencing disproportionately higher levels of crime.

Key Outcomes of the Initiative:

Measuring the success of TAVIS has always been a challenge. Beyond the quantitative figures, much of the feedback received by TAVIS comes in the form of qualitative information that is received from the community.

In 2011, the two selected NTI neighbourhoods reported no shootings and no homicides during the NTI deployment. Other crime indicators for that given time period were also significantly lower. During the same time period in 2011, feedback from the community indicated that NTI in neighbourhoods, had a positive impact on the community’s perception of crime and disorder. In 2011, the RRT was responsible for over 1300 arrests, the seizure of 12 illegal handguns and over $23,000 in cash seized as proceeds of crime.

This has all contributed to the positive impact on the community’s perception of crime and disorder.

Availability of a Communication Strategy:


Key Messages used to Publicize the Initiative:

In the past, TAVIS has advertised on public spaces such as bus shelters, through radio advertisements and through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. TAVIS has also been featured in numerous TV and radio interviews over the years. The key messages used to publicize this initiative stress the importance of community safety being a shared responsibility. Police only represent one piece of the puzzle and it is up to all stakeholders to do their part to keep their neighbourhoods safe.

Forms of Evaluation by which the Initiative will be Assessed:

  • quantitative
  • qualitative

Evaluation Completed or Community Feedback Received:


Summary of the Outcomes:

Historically, the focused efforts aligned with TAVIS assisted in deterring incidents of crime and disorder from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective. The most notable reductions, when comparing the same areas the year prior, are the reduction in the number of shootings and homicides.

From a qualitative perspective, feedback from the community indicates that the NTI has had a positive impact on the community’s perception of crime and disorder. Many community members have indicated the enormous impact some of the youth programs have had on their children and future opportunities created for them. Much of this data is captured in pre-NTI and post-NTI surveys that are completed by residents in the NTI neighbourhoods. As an innovation to our traditional paper surveys sent out before and after the NTI, in 2012, the NTI hosted a ‘virtual town hall’ where residents in the NTI areas were able to phone into a live discussion with the Deputy Chief of TPS. The feedback was very positive and participation rates were much improved.

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