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Canton Police Department launches community engagement effort in area with increased crime

The Canton Police Department has launched a community engagement effort in a one square mile area of the city that’s seen an increase in violent crime. The department is using a federal grant to address this issue.

Canton Police Chief John Gabbard said 68% of violent crime in the city between 2020 and 2021 occurred in the far northeast corner of Canton. His department has received $18,000 from the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, which will go to funding more foot patrols in the area and community engagement efforts.

“We can do all of that now, and those are some of the things we do, but being able to kind of take some guys out of the usual rotation and putting them focused on doing just that is going to cost us some money," Gabbard said. "So that’s where the money’s going to go.”

Gabbard said they will be holding community meetings to address concerns and update the public on their progress. The department conducted a survey last month to gauge how the community feels about violent crime and the police.

The survey is the first of two in the program. Gabbard said officers contacted hundreds of residents for in-person surveys and received 84 responses. The survey asked them to rate their fear of being the victim of a violent crime, how often they see marked police units in their neighborhood, if their contact with police has been positive and how crimes in the neighborhood impact their quality of life. Gabbard said another round of surveys will be done at the end of the process.

Violent crime has been rising in all of Canton the past few years. Gabbard said this grant is an opportunity to target what his department is doing in the city overall in a specific area.

"The more we can do that, there's greater benefits in other places," Gabbard said, "and it also gives us a good blueprint for my officers sometimes, when we can show them how successful it is, they can kind of buy in as to why we would do things that way."

Gabbard said increased foot patrols are already underway in the area.

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