It was becoming frustrating. In just five weeks, four separate incidents of vandalism at Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Ancaster, Ont., left the church building with broken windows and a broken door. In sharing these experiences on social media, the church became aware that this was not an isolated issue; many neighborhood residents were also dealing with repeated incidents of vandalism to their homes and vehicles. Meadowlands saw these shared stories as an opportunity to reach out to their neighborhood—to open their doors wider rather than lock them. The church organized a community meeting on May 7 called “Strong Communities, Safe Neighborhoods” in hopes of creating a space where residents could connect with city leaders and police officers. The organizers also hung up posters on which attendees could write down what they liked about their neighborhood and what they wished they could improve.
City Councillor Lloyd Ferguson and several teams of officers from the Hamilton Police Force were in attendance, giving short presentations on their roles. They spoke about what is happening and what can be done to address the vandalism occurring in the area.
Attendees were also able to express their concerns about not having enough officers to serve their area and their fears of repeated occurrences. One woman who had had her vehicle stolen and place of work vandalized on separate occasions stated: “I work here and I live here. The cost to us is our peace of mind.”
Councillor Ferguson assured the community that “the events in this neighborhood are very much on the police [force]’s radar.” He indicated that an apprehension had been made, related to the incidents of vandalism, but was not able to give more details at the time of the meeting.
“We hope that an evening like this can help us become a community that listens to each other,” said Steve Dykstra, director of ministry programs at Meadowlands CRC and organizer of the community forum.
“It would be my dream that out of this we could organize a Meadowlands/Tiffany Hills community group,” added Dykstra. Neighborhood groups like this exist in other parts of Hamilton—the metropolitan area of which Ancaster is a part—but as this is still a growing community, a group had not yet formed.
In his presentation, police superintendent Will Mason also stressed the importance of a connected community. “The more connected neighbors are really helps when there are issues,” Mason said.
To help build community in this developing area, Meadowlands CRC will also be holding a free FunFest event in their local park in June.