Building Safe Communities in Toronto’s Urban Landscape

POSTED ON August 1, 2023 BY Justine Smith

Amid Toronto’s rapid growth and transformation, Steven Velasco’s captivating rendering offers us a glimpse into a future of a thriving urban landscape. As we brace ourselves for an unprecedented 30% population surge by 2030, it becomes apparent that this growth presents a host of challenges, from urban congestion to affordable housing and environmental sustainability. The need for accessible and inclusive neighbourhoods is more pressing than ever to preserve the vibrant essence of Toronto’s allure.

At the heart of any thriving community lies safety—a cornerstone that not only ensures individual well-being, but also fuels prosperity for local businesses and fosters downtown hubs that attract a growing population. A model example of such a neighbourhood is Toronto’s Entertainment District, which caters to a diverse blend of residents, tourists, and businesses seeking varied services and experiences. Situated within the Toronto Downtown West Business Improvement Area (BIA), the district continues to take shape as more than 70 new developments are underway, intensifying the area’s population. The BIA details each development on its Development Tracking Map and provides a framework for unifying the public realm in a coordinated manner. Our association is diligently working to unite its business owners, residents, and key stakeholders in a collective mission to create a well-designed, safer, and more welcoming neighbourhood. The evidence of these efforts can be seen in real-time as a healthy flow of traffic moves through the district while towering cranes are in motion above. However, much of our work takes place behind the scenes, especially on the matter of safety.

The question that arises is: how do community-focused groups and associations like the BIA effectively address the crucial topic of safety? We offer a guide through our work across three key focus areas:


Building meaningful relationships and strategic partnerships among community stakeholders is the first step towards achieving common safety and security goals. Working with the Toronto Police Service, (TPS), we were successful in introducing the Neighbourhood Community Officer Program to our area. This initiative increased the presence of police in public spaces, enabling swift responses to safety-related concerns. Additionally, our Downtown Security Group brings together security and operations personnel from organizations within our footprint, along with representatives from various City groups, to work together on safety matters.

Working closely with our local councillor has allowed us to address pertinent issues impacting our membership and community. Through our collective efforts in tackling concerns, such as securing affordable, supportive housing, and essential resources for those facing crisis situations, we foster a positive impact on the neighborhood and strengthen the unity within our community.

Recognizing that our influence extends beyond the neighbourhood’s borders, we’ve forged a strong connection with other downtown BIAs, creating a culture of knowledge exchange, mutual learning, and joint strategy formation. This alliance enables the development of impactful, holistic solutions that enhance safety across the entire city.

Collaboration can profoundly impact community safety, offering valuable lessons for communities worldwide striving to create a safer environment.


Empowering the community through knowledge-sharing and skill development is paramount to addressing challenges effectively. Community engagement lies at the core of our efforts and is demonstrated through community sessions designed to keep stakeholders informed and actively involved in the neighbourhood’s journey. At these sessions, experts equipped community members with insight and knowledge on topics related to safety and wellbeing. Workshop topics span from de-escalation training to safeguarding against organized crimes, fostering a sense of empowerment within the community.

The impact of such engagement on community safety cannot be overstated; it strengthens connections, builds resilience, and nurtures a shared commitment to creating a safer and more secure community for all.


The BIA embraces our mandate to advocate on behalf of members and community. Through liaising with government bodies, we’ve successfully influenced policies and secured resources for affordable and supportive housing, mental health and addictions, infrastructure improvements and safeguarding against crime.

As we envision a future of growth and development, we must never lose sight of the fact that thriving communities are built on the foundations of safety and wellbeing. Nurturing these fundamental aspects allows us to unlock the full potential of Toronto, ensuring that its rapid transformation does not come at the expense of its most precious asset—its people. The Toronto Downtown West BIA is unwavering in its commitment to making this vision a reality, and together, we can shape a future where everyone has a place to thrive. By embracing collaboration, engagement, and advocacy, we fortify our communities, paving the way for a safer and more prosperous Toronto.