A massive undertaking to make Grey Bruce safer is at the community input and survey stage.
57 local groups, including local municipalities and organizations from healthcare to social services and policing are working on a Community Safety and Well Being plan.
A survey (open until March 22nd) has been launched that asks people how they feel about their safety where they live, and what they think needs to be prioritized to create a safer, healthier community.
The survey asks how safe you feel, for example, walking around at night alone, or being at home alone at night in your community. It asks you to rank issues like housing affordability, mental health, addictions, poverty and others in order of importance in tackling the issue.
The whole initiative is mandated by the Province with an aim to better coordinate community institutions to help curb crime by addressing problems before they get to the point of police intervention.
In a statement on the province's website, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Sylvia Jones says, "Community safety and well-being cannot rest solely on the shoulders of the police."
Grey Bruce Project Coordinator Sarah Cowley says, "The healthier we make communities right at the start, the better the outcomes related to crime."
Cowley is a consultant with a nursing background who has worked extensively in Grey Bruce with various mental health and addictions services, "It's even upstream of policing," explains Cowley saying connecting our service organizations can help people long before police have to intervene.
From March to June, there will be 32 community input sessions, (two per municipality) as well as two planned regional community engagement sessions one for Grey and one for Bruce.
On top of that, there are 50 planned sessions between community organizations.
A local website for the project was launched this month.
Meanwhile, Grey County Social Services Director Barb Fedy says a number of pilot projects for plans in Ontario that were rolled out a few years ago predicted and then delivered on a decrease in criminal activity and improved mental health stats.
Fedy says,"We're not looking at it as something that we 'must do' we're looking at it as something that we all want to do and participate in because we all know that we are going to have a stronger community infrastructure and fabric by working together on breaking down some of the barriers and some of the challenges that we face."
As for the participating municipalities, all but Meaford are taking part, because Meaford is creating its own plan. First Nations are not mandated by the province to come up with such plans, but Cowley says locally, there are First Nation community organizations like the M'Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre, and Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation Police taking part.
Cowley says, "Less than 12 months from now, we will have a structured plan for the counties that includes a local appendix that will have identified what the risks are we're working towards unrolling and unravelling at this time for each of our smaller communities."