Initiative connects police and Chinatown

In the winter of 2009, a man stole bread from Samson Kuk’s bakery at the corner of Dundas and Huron streets. Kuk called the police.

He said the suspect harassed his bakery staff for 30 minutes before leaving. That’s when Kuk gave up hope of receiving police assistance.When she learned of Kuk’s story and others like it, Tsering Dolma decided to act.

“I felt that to mobilize the community on safety, it is very important that the public should feel safe,” Dolma said.

She serves as a member as member of the Community Policing Liaison Committee. She has particular expertise working with newcomers and business owners in Toronto’s Chinatown area.

She said that some merchants, who have come from countries with questionable policing practices, have a “negative impression” of the police in Canada. She said they sometimes feel ignored by authorities.

“I felt it would be very important that the community should feel safe and (have) trust (in the police),” she said.

Dolma initiated the Safe Community Initiative in November 2009 in co-operation with Toronto Police Service’s 52 Division.

As part of the initiative, Const. Mike Moffatt and Const. Dave Richards joined Dolma as she visited over 500 businesses in Chinatown.

Each business owner received a robbery prevention kit and fridge magnet with a list of important numbers to call, such as the closest hospital, local police and fire departments.

The kits advised merchants how to look for suspicious persons and key descriptions to remember after a robbery has taken place.

Dolma also provided instructions about filling out incident reports, translated into Chinese. She said the response from business owners has been positive.

The Chinatown Business Improvement Area (BIA) participated in the program by providing posters that told people they were being recorded on camera. They also provided information about ways of arranging a store’s layout to prevent theft.

It helped merchants, Dolma said, because previously most business owners didn’t know what to do when they needed police assistance.

“(I) told them they had to keep in mind all these things,” Dolma said. “As soon as an incident happens…they (now) know what to do.”

Const. Moffatt said that the initiative acts as a basis for good two-way communication between business owners and the police.

“We had a sum-up meeting less than a month ago,” Moffatt said. “It (the safe community initiative) was pretty successful.”

Meanwhile, baker Samson Kuk said he supported the initiative, even if he had just learned about it.

“Maybe they should do a little more promotion…and send out (more information) to business owners,” he said.