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:
The initiative has several objectives:
Divisional Policing Command
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.
This strategy commenced in 2006 in response to a spike in gun violence within the city of Toronto.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.