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‘Active citizenship’ builds stronger community: Police chief

‘Active citizenship’ builds stronger community: Police chief

Barrie chief makes comments after attending community meeting following shooting in Letitia Heights neighbourhood

Crime can happen in any community, but it’s how members of the community — as well as police — respond to it that can make all the difference.

“Things happen, but (it’s about) how effective your police service is at addressing that,” Barrie Police Service Chief Rich Johnston told BarrieToday in response to the arrest of the final suspect in the April 22 shooting that occurred on a pathway between Leacock Drive and Kipling Place in the city’s Letitia Heights neighbourhood.

“The women and men at Barrie Police Service were driven in their desire to keep public safety at the forefront. A lot of effort was brought to bear to bring the individuals before the court,” he said, confirming the final outstanding suspect was arrested Thursday in Hamilton.

Johnston recently attended a community safety meeting in Ward 5, which was initially scheduled to address graffiti in the Letitia Heights neighbourhood, and said he was impressed by the commitment of residents to ensure their community didn’t get a bad rap because of the shooting.

“There were some concerns brought up about the shooting incident, as there would be, but the response from that community was incredible. We had individuals signing up to do neighbourhood watch. Their concern wasn’t that a crime occurred; it was that it was misrepresenting the neighbourhood. That was a great statement, because Letitia Heights is a very safe area and those individuals were concerned that people thought it was unsafe,” he said.

At the May 2 meeting, Johnston said he spoke of social cohesion — something he believes helps build a stronger community.

“The research is so strong behind collective efficacy, and we do know the research suggests that the stronger a community is, the lower the crime because people care about each other. It’s about active citizenship, and the police support that 100 per cent. We can’t be there all the time, but the people who live there can. It warmed my heart to see,” he said.

An investigation of this magnitude takes time, said Peter Leon, the force’s communications co-ordinator, crediting the hard work of officers and the detectives from the major crime unit for taking the evidence they had and being able to quickly make the first three arrests. Getting the fourth suspect into custody, he continued, was “paramount.”

Shortly before 4 p.m. Friday, Timothy White was arrested by members of the Provincial Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement Squad at a King Street West address in Hamilton. He has been charged with attempted murder, discharging a firearm with intent, aggravated assault, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm, having knowledge of unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a loaded prohibited or restricted firearm, and assault with a weapon.

“In less than two weeks, a major occurrence that impacted a portion of our community has been concluded with all arrested persons being held accountable for their actions that night. I think that should show the community that the police are willing to go anywhere and everywhere they need to in order to solve crimes that impact our community,” Leon said, noting the investigation took police to Orillia and Hamilton.

Two men from Orillia, ages 23 and 21, along with a 29-year-old Barrie woman, were arrested April 28 and are facing charges of attempted murder and discharging a firearm with intent.

The victim, Leon confirmed, is in stable but critical condition at a Toronto-area trauma centre.

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