Safe and Sound
What was Safe and Sound?
The Safe and Sound project was undertaken in four Ontario neighbourhoods: two in Waterloo, namely Kingsdale and Sunnydale, as well as Southwood and Christopher-Champlain, in Cambridge. Sponsored by the Waterloo Region Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council (CSCPC), the implementation of Safe and Sound was overseen by neighbourhood advisory committees composed of community organizations and groups involved in safety and crime prevention.
The project's goal was to develop long-term plans to reduce and remove the personal, social and economic barriers that sometimes lead people to become perpetrators or victims of crime. A capacity-building approach was utilized to help individuals and communities understand the root causes of crime, effective problem-solving and partnership development. Horizontal plans focused on community life, and attempted to minimize risk factors that the community could deal with by developing referral mechanisms and integrated service supports.
The specific activities supported through Safe and Sound involved undertaking assessments of neighbourhood needs, assets and capacities. Vertical activities focused on creating linkages between stakeholders within each community and decision-makers at higher levels of power. While specific activities offered by Safe and Sound differed in the four neighbourhoods according to each community's unique needs, the project's overarching characteristic was the notion of partnerships.
What was the Safe and Sound evaluation methodology?
An outcome and process evaluation was conducted by the Centre for Research and Education in Human Services, a team of independent third-party evaluators. The participatory approach taken by the evaluators was based on three main questions:
- Has Safe and Sound enhanced the community's capacity to address root causes of crime?
- Has Safe and Sound reduced neighbourhood crime and safety concerns?
- Has Safe and Sound enhanced capacity for crime prevention at a regional level?
A neighbourhood survey of residents was completed at the project's baseline and at its conclusion. The number of survey respondents varied across the four neighbourhoods, with Kingsdale having the highest response rate at baseline of 85. There were 46 responses in its follow-up survey. The other three neighbourhoods had baseline response rates in the 30s, but follow-up response rates were consistently lower.
Characteristics of people responding to the survey were not provided, nor was it clear whether the same people had responded to the baseline and follow-up surveys. The evaluation did gather participant observations, interviews and focus groups with residents, regional partners and staff. The evaluation lacked a comparison or control site, making it impossible to generalize findings to larger populations. The findings discussed below are taken from the evaluation reports prepared by the Centre for Research and Education in Human Services.
What were the project's key findings?
Process evaluation findings
Process evaluation results showed that, at the neighbourhood and regional levels, Safe and Sound did almost all of its work in partnership with other groups. Each of the neighbourhoods concentrated on different activities and priority areas, according to their unique needs. Thus, Kingsdale sought the involvement of children, youth and adults, while the Southwood site sought to make connections with local landlords.
In both Christopher-Champlain and Southwood a neighbourhood conflict-resolution project was established. All sites showed enhanced feelings of community connectedness, an increased sense of neighbourhood pride and greater satisfaction with their physical environments.
This project can be described as complex and challenging, especially with respect to maintaining leadership in all neighbourhoods. Over 60 partnerships were established in all four neighbourhoods. Housing providers, the police, local schools and Family and Children's Services were partners at all sites, and proved to be extremely important partners in neighbourhood-based crime prevention.
Outcome evaluation findings
Outcome evaluation results indicate that Safe and Sound successfully increased community capacity in the project's four neighbourhoods. People with little or no experience in community activism came forward and developed knowledge of their community's issues, as well as the advocacy skills to advance them.
Involvement with the project increased neighbourhood pride and forged stronger feelings of connectedness. Improvements were also evident regarding residents' attitudes in all neighbourhoods towards physical space, quality of housing, youth, vandalism, alcohol and drug abuse, and party noise.
According to parent survey results, the number of parents who reported that their children were bullied was reduced by 50% over the course of the project. Limited evidence also suggests that Safe and Sound also successfully reduced crime. Calls to police in all four of the project's neighbourhoods remained stable during the study period (1997-2002); meantime, the number of calls to police in the entire Waterloo region increased by 80. All these findings appear to generally apply to all four sites, although specific outcomes differed for each neighbourhood.
What are the implications of the findings?
Findings regarding project outcomes should be interpreted with caution. Although the evaluation held to a pre-post test design, there is no way to verify whether the same respondents completed the survey during both test periods. The follow-up response rate was also relatively low. The evaluation relied on qualitative data-gathering methods. Standardized instruments or triangulation were not used.
Also, a control or comparison site was not included in the evaluation, making it impossible to generalize to a population beyond the individuals directly involved in the project. That being said, the evaluation nonetheless points to positive impacts, indicating the need to evaluate this type of initiative further by means of a stronger, more rigorous design that is able to furnish more conclusive statements. Evaluators also noted the importance of using a longitudinal evaluation component for this type of project, thereby allowing project results to be traced over time and enabling long-term neighbourhood changes to be assessed.
What were the key lessons that have been learned from this evaluation?
Many lessons were learned from this project including:
- Gradual engagement and getting to know the neighbourhoods and the people within them is vital for this type of intervention. Relationships with a variety of stakeholders must be initiated and nurtured;
- resident leadership and engagement are essential. Safe and Sound acted as a channel for residents to come together, connect with each other and learn from others;
- community involvement is a good way to obtain additional resources for crime prevention;
- it is important to focus on goals while remaining flexible. Goals help to guide efforts over the project's course but building stronger communities rarely takes a linear path;
- research information helps to focus crime prevention. To deepen understanding of their community, projects should use existing data sources, such as census data and police information;
- the police are an essential partner in neighbourhood crime prevention; and
- the involvement of communities as partners is useful, perhaps essential to project success. However, this can be a time-consuming and difficult process where lines of authority and communication with many players can become unclear.
For more information or to receive a copy of the final evaluation report please contact the National Crime Prevention Centre at 1-800-830-3118
- Date modified: