The Neighbourhood Empowerment Team works with communities and partners

For a safe and vibrant community, no one should be left without services and that’s where the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (N.E.T.) fits into the picture.

The team is a partnership between the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Police Service, The Family Centre, and United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. They work closely with teams in the City to help communities.

“N.E.T. works with residents, businesses, and organizations to identify and address any safety concerns the community has,” explains Courage Fon, community safety liaison with northwest division’s N.E.T. “We have a sergeant who connects us with law enforcement. He links us with specific law enforcement services and works with us on any project we have.”

Fon has been working for the N.E.T. team for two months.

“As someone who has a passion for working with people and who has worked with children, families, and communities on issues of abuse, working with N.E.T. goes along that continuum of safety, but this time from the perspective of prevention of crime and disorder. So this position helps broaden my scope of knowledge,” Fon shares. “I wanted an avenue where I would get to know this city and this role gives me that opportunity, as I get to meet with different stakeholders, different members of the community, and most especially, I get to hear their concerns and work with them to provide solutions.”

When there are concerns within a community, or a community goes to N.E.T. with a safety concern, the team assesses the neighbourhood. “We also check police stats. Then we do an analysis of all of this and find what is the root of the problem. After we’ve done that, then we respond to these problems,” Fon explains.

From there, they try to find solutions. “We take back the responses to the community. It’s left for the community to decide if they want to implement the solutions or not,” Fon adds. If the community implements solutions, the team assesses if it was successful.

“Everything is very bottom up and we work with the community to find a solution that is going to work for them, and one that they are going to be willing and have [the] capacity to take on themselves,” explains Jordan Clark Marcichiw, youth liaison with northwest division’s N.E.T. team.

Marcichiw began working with the Family Centre three years ago.

“The opportunity to advocate for and support youth in the community is what drew me to the youth liaison role. Bringing youth voices to the table and advocating for change that is meaningful to them is one of my favourite parts of the role,” says Marcichiw. “Working collaboratively with our N.E.T partners has provided me with a unique perspective on crime prevention, and I love the opportunity to get to know the diverse communities that we work with. Exploring the community and discovering gems such as delicious bakeries, great cafes, and unique shops has also been a huge perk!”

She adds: “We have something that we want to create and N.E.T. is like the scaffolding as it is being built up. Ideally, at the end of the day, you can remove the scaffolding and the building will still stand.” It is all about creating a sustainable plan. “A really key part of this is to have the community engaged.”

“N.E.T. is community development with a crime lens, as I like to say,” adds Jenna Pilot, supervisor of community safety. “Our community safety liaisons and youth liaisons really need to focus on building those relationships with key stakeholders in communities.” N.E.T. wants to empower communities to be a proactive part of the solution.

“Any problem that we would take on is crime and safety and disorder, whether that is a perception or whether that’s an actual instance of criminal activity. That’s especially true for the youth liaison side of things,” explains Marcichiw. If it’s a perception of crime, they work with the community to change it. If it’s actually crime, they work with the youth.

“We don’t do one-on-one work. We do more of the community development side. If you know a youth that needs a one-on-one worker, my role would be to either connect you to a youth worker or, if that doesn’t exist, we could talk about developing something that could respond to that,” Marcichiw says. “The youth liaison role in this area has mostly been to support the schools and to support the schools with those basic need things. The mentality [is] that if someone’s basic needs are met, they’re less likely to engage in criminal activity in the future.”

N.E.T. started in 1997 with a social worker and a police officer. Now six N.E.T. teams are scattered throughout the city to help communities access necessary services and programs. “Part of our job is to make sure we are up-to-date on what’s going on in the city and what resources are already in existence,” says Marcichiw.

The team points people in the right direction to receive assistance. “We try really hard to be walking resource books.”

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Featured Image: (From left to right) Courage Fon, community safety liaison, and Jordan Marcichiw, the youth liaison. | Stephen Strand