Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design: Understanding Its Significance and Implications

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) has emerged as a pivotal strategy in the realm of urban planning and public safety. This approach focuses on the design, manipulation, and management of the physical environment to reduce opportunities for crime, thereby enhancing the quality of life for community members. This article delves into the rationale behind conducting a CPTED survey, its benefits, the stakeholders who gain from it, and the potential drawbacks, offering a comprehensive perspective for professionals in the field.

As professionals well-versed in the nuances of urban safety and planning, you are likely familiar with the concept of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). This strategic approach has become increasingly relevant in our efforts to cultivate safer, more harmonious urban spaces. If you are considering the implementation of a CPTED survey, or if you have questions regarding its scope and effectiveness, this article aims to provide you with comprehensive insights that will inform your decision-making process.

CPTED stands as a testament to the profound impact that environmental design can have on crime prevention and community well-being. Rooted in the understanding that the physical environment plays a crucial role in influencing behavior, CPTED strategies involve the meticulous assessment and modification of environmental factors to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life for residents. This article delves into the essential components of a CPTED survey, exploring why such a survey is pivotal, the manifold benefits it offers, the diverse stakeholders who stand to gain, and the potential challenges that need to be navigated.

Our objective here is not just to underscore the importance of CPTED surveys but also to equip you with the knowledge to effectively implement and leverage these surveys in your respective domains. Whether you are at the cusp of initiating a CPTED survey or are seeking to deepen your understanding of its implications, this discussion aims to shed light on the critical aspects of CPTED, ensuring that your approach to urban safety and planning is both informed and impactful.

Why Conduct a CPTED Survey?

A CPTED survey is essential for several reasons:

  1. Risk Assessment: It helps in identifying potential security risks and vulnerabilities in a particular area.
  2. Customized Solutions: It enables the development of tailored strategies that address specific local crime issues.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement: Such surveys involve community members, fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration in crime prevention efforts.

Benefits of a CPTED Survey

The benefits of conducting a CPTED survey are multifaceted:

  1. Reduced Crime Rates: Properly implemented CPTED principles have been shown to decrease crime rates significantly.
  2. Enhanced Public Safety: It improves the perception of safety and security among residents.
  3. Economic Advantages: A safer environment can lead to increased property values and business activities.
  4. Sustainable Development: CPTED principles contribute to sustainable urban development by promoting safe and livable environments.

Beneficiaries of CPTED

The beneficiaries of CPTED surveys extend beyond individual residents:

  1. Local Communities: Residents benefit from safer and more secure living environments.
  2. Law Enforcement: Police can focus resources more effectively when environmental design reduces opportunities for crime.
  3. Urban Planners and Developers: Insights from CPTED surveys aid in creating safer urban spaces.
  4. Business Owners: A safe environment can boost customer footfall and economic activity.

Drawbacks of CPTED

While beneficial, CPTED surveys also have limitations:

  1. Resource Intensive: Conducting thorough surveys requires significant time and financial resources.
  2. Potential for Discrimination: There is a risk of promoting exclusionary practices, inadvertently targeting specific groups.

3.       Overemphasis on Surveillance: Excessive focus on surveillance can lead to privacy concerns and a ‘fortress mentality’.


CPTED surveys are a critical tool in the urban planner’s repertoire, offering significant benefits in terms of crime reduction, enhanced safety, and community well-being. However, it is crucial to approach these surveys with an understanding of their potential drawbacks and ensure that they are implemented in an inclusive, ethical, and resource-efficient manner.


If your Municipality wants to learn more about this topic and read the full article version visit here. Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] for further assistance.



Navigating the Surge in Citizen Records Requests: A Guide for Municipalities


The democratization of information, fueled by the digital age, has empowered citizens to seek transparency and accountability from their local governments. As a result, municipalities are witnessing an unprecedented surge in citizen records requests. While this surge is a testament to an engaged and informed citizen base, it simultaneously presents logistical and operational challenges for local governments. The complexities involved in fulfilling these records requests have also escalated, making it an arduous task that requires meticulous planning, resource allocation, and, most importantly, time.

Growing Volume and Complexity

According to a study by the National League of Cities, the volume of citizen public records requests has increased by over 30% year-over-year. This exponential rise is not just a number but represents a myriad of requests, from simple inquiries about public expenditures to more complex demands for legal documents. In addition, the cost of processing a single request can vary significantly depending on the complexity, ranging from $30 to almost $450.


Burden on Municipal Staff

The administrative burden to meet these demands stretches the already scarce labour resources available to municipalities. Staff must divert time from other civic duties to comb through files, redact sensitive information, and ensure compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or equivalent state laws. Couple that with the complexities of the requests themselves increasing, now including photo and video, and it’s become the number one burden for over 75% of government agencies according to a survey. As a result, the time taken to fulfill a request has lengthened, leading to delays and, consequently, unhappy citizens.


The Need for a Digital Solution

In an era where speed and efficiency are paramount, relying solely on manual processes is unsustainable. Adopting a digital solution for handling records requests can serve as a cornerstone for effective citizen engagement. Automation can streamline the process by categorizing requests, assigning them to the relevant departments, and even providing estimated timelines for fulfillment. Digitization also enables easy retrieval and sharing of documents, reducing the turnaround time significantly.

Planning for Implementation

For municipalities contemplating a shift towards a digital solution, here are some key steps for a seamless implementation:

  1. Needs Assessment: Conduct a thorough analysis of the current system, identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies.
  2. Vendor Selection: Look for solutions that are robust, user-friendly, and offer functionalities specifically designed for records requests.
  3. Staff Training: Ensure that municipal staff are adequately trained to utilize the new system effectively.
  4. Pilot Testing: Implement the solution in phases, beginning with a pilot program to gauge its effectiveness.
  5. Feedback Loop: Continually collect feedback from both staff and citizens to make necessary adjustments

Prioritizing Integration

Rather than operating in silos, modern municipal systems require a level of interconnectedness to function efficiently. Choosing a citizen records management solution with an open API can be a game-changer in this regard. Open APIs allow for seamless integration between different software platforms, thereby creating a centralized hub for all relevant data. The following are major benefits of having a system that can integrate with others:

  • Centralized Data: Having a single point of access for various types of data eliminates the need for multiple logins and reduces the risk of data duplication or error.
  • Streamlined Workflows: An open API enables automated data exchange between systems. For example, a records request in the citizen engagement platform can automatically populate fields in the document management system, saving time and reducing manual entry errors.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: Different departments within the municipality can easily collaborate as they can access the same, consistent data. This is especially useful for complex records requests that involve multiple departments.
    Scalability: As your municipality grows, an open API ensures that new functionalities and modules can be easily added or updated without overhauling the entire system.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Interoperable systems reduce the need for additional software to bridge gaps between different platforms, lowering overall costs.
  • Compliance Ease: Integrated systems can be programmed to automatically adhere to legal standards such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), making compliance simpler and less prone to human error.

By opting for a solution that prioritizes interoperability through an open API, municipalities can ensure that they are investing in a flexible, scalable, and efficient system. This enables local governments to meet the growing and complex demands of citizen record requests while simultaneously facilitating other municipal operations.


The task of managing citizen records requests is becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming. However, adopting a digital solution can alleviate many of these challenges by automating workflows, digitizing records, and enabling efficient resource allocation. A specialized system, like AccessE11, focuses strictly on citizen engagement and issue management, making it an ideal choice for municipalities looking to streamline this aspect of their operations. With a well-planned implementation, local governments can significantly reduce the time and resources required to fulfill citizen records requests, thereby fostering a transparent, efficient, and engaged community.


How User-Friendly Online Services Drive Citizen Satisfaction

Citizen satisfaction is not just a buzzword; it’s an essential metric for evaluating the performance of local governments. Research indicates that a staggering 72% of citizens are interested in utilizing online government services. Despite this interest, over half abandon their attempts due to difficulties in navigation and access. The implications are clear: providing user-friendly online services is not a luxury but necessary for increasing citizen satisfaction and fostering trust.

Citizen Satisfaction: The Cornerstone of an Effective Local Government

Citizen satisfaction serves as a barometer for the effectiveness of local government. A satisfied citizenry is more likely to engage with the community, trust their local government, and participate in civic responsibilities like voting. According to a study by Pew Research Center, 71% of Americans who have a favorable view of their local government are also actively engaged in their communities, compared to just 28% who have an unfavorable view.

The Challenges of Simple Online Services

While the advent of online services opens doors for more efficient and streamlined government-citizen interactions, it’s not without its challenges. One of the most significant obstacles is the complexity of user interfaces. In an environment where many citizens are already hesitant to engage with governmental systems, a convoluted or unintuitive interface can serve as a formidable barrier.


Moreover, the issue of accessibility remains a pivotal concern. This isn’t just about having access to a computer or the internet. It is also about how easy the system is for people who may not be digitally literate. Aging populations combined with a constantly changing technological environment create a level of complexity that some people cannot navigate.

The Ripple Effect of User-Friendly Online Services

The benefits of enhancing the usability of online government services extend far beyond mere convenience. They directly impact the quality of governance and citizen satisfaction. For instance, efficient problem resolution is a tangible outcome of a well-designed interface. When citizens can easily report issues or request services, it expedites the government’s ability to address these concerns and creates a positive feedback loop.


Additionally, the usability of online services directly correlates with government transparency and civic engagement. A system that enables straightforward access to information or services naturally encourages citizens to interact more with their local government. This fosters a culture of transparency, as citizens are more likely to be informed about government initiatives and spending. Therefore, investing in the usability of online services can be a strategic move that pays dividends in multiple facets of governance and citizen satisfaction.

Blueprints for Success

Leveraging a sophisticated case management system can significantly elevate the quality of citizen engagement for local governments. This sets the stage for a more streamlined and user-friendly online experience. One of the most crucial features of such a system is an easy-to-use, citizen-facing web form. Local governments can ensure that citizens can effortlessly report issues or request services by providing a straightforward and intuitive form. This streamlined approach can significantly improve problem-resolution efficiency, enabling government agencies to promptly and accurately collect all necessary information. Mobile capabilities further extend this accessibility, allowing citizens to engage with their local government whenever and wherever it’s most convenient.

Another standout feature of a robust case management system is automated communication. This functionality ensures that citizens are kept in the loop about the status of their issue or request, from initial receipt to final resolution. Such automation not only reduces the administrative burden on government staff but also enhances the transparency of the process. Furthermore, citizen outreach can be integrated into the system to periodically update the community about new initiatives, upcoming events, or important announcements. By combining these elements—accessible web forms, mobile capabilities, automated communication, and citizen outreach—local governments can create a holistic, user-friendly online experience that meets and exceeds citizens’ expectations, thereby fostering higher engagement and satisfaction levels.

AccessE11 is a solution that can tackle all these issues, while being affordable and easy to implement for your municipality. By offering automation, citizen outreach, and an easy to use citizen facing webform, AccessE11 gives local governments of any size the chance to bring easy online access to their citizens. You can do the same in your municipality.

In Conclusion

Driving citizen satisfaction is no longer just ‘nice-to-have’; it’s a necessity for the overall health of local governments. Investing in user-friendly online services can significantly elevate citizen satisfaction, engagement, and trust. As we move deeper into the digital age, the governments that prioritize these aspects will be the ones to set benchmarks in effective governance.



Ontario’s Minimum Wage & The Inflationary Wage Spiral

With the minimum wage in Ontario set to increase significantly by +6.7% in October, we’re seeing many employers in this high inflation environment budgeting for increases of between 3% to 5% (or more) — much higher than the historical average of 1.5% to 3.0%. Hourly wages increased on average by 4.0% in 2022, compared to the historical pre-pandemic average of 2.5% (+/-). 2023 is not over but early data suggests wages at the macro-level could increase at a higher pace again this year than the historical norm (following a CPI increase last year of +6.7% – which is why the Ontario minimum wage is going up by that amount in October – it is tied to the annual CPI measurement).

Hopefully inflation will cool but current trends are not yet consistently supporting that view (July CPI was 3.3% vs the same month last year, though economists were predicting it would be lower, at 3.0%).While the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2023 (which was far weaker than forecasters had expected) it remains to be seen if this is indeed a sign of tapering that will continue in the quarters ahead. At the same time, it appears that wage gains are finally outstripping inflation, meaning there is real growth in wages for the first time, in a long time.

“Entry level” staff seem to be the most difficult to attract and retain right now and it remains to be seen if a higher minimum wage in October will address this shortage. Not unlike 2018 when the provincial government increased the minimum wage to $14.00 (from $11.60), there was a huge cost-crunch for employers that also threw off the internal equilibrium in many organizations with lower-wage workers making as much as more skilled counterparts due to the sudden jump.This will occur again but to a lesser degree (compression between lower paid staff and mid-range employees).

Higher salary budgets may be required for some time, even in the face of a weakening economy. Targeted actions may also be required to address internal-equity imbalances, particularly after the October hike to the minimum wage (we are also mindful that these above-average recommendations themselves contribute to the inflation we are all experiencing). We are told that inflation will cool this year and next, and if that holds true, we should see increases reduce to the 2-3% range again. Time will tell.


(Need more information or other Human Resources advice?  Please feel free to contact us for more information about our services including our HRLive platform, a turnkey solution built to address the HR needs of small-to-medium municipalities).


Citizen Management Software: An Affordable 311 Alternative

The problem: Dedicated 311 Systems are prohibitively expensive

As residents increasingly demand easier access to services, the need for software solutions to meet this demand becomes crucial. However, smaller municipalities often face barriers due to the high cost of implementing new technology. Many self-service and dedicated 311 software solutions can be prohibitively expensive and may only be effectively utilized by larger centers. Thankfully, there are cost-effective alternatives available that can provide similar benefits.

An Alternative for Small to Mid-Sized Municipalities

One such alternative is citizen issue management software, which proves to be an effective option for municipalities to track, manage, and respond to citizen requests and concerns. These modern, cloud-based systems enable municipal staff to handle requests more efficiently from start to finish. When a resident makes a request or submits an issue, the software automates the entire logging, assignment, and communication process. This automation saves countless staff hours and eliminates duplicate data entry.

Numerous municipalities have already experienced success by implementing alternative software for their issue management processes, as opposed to opting for a dedicated 311 system. According to an article from Govtech website, the city of Evanston, Illinois has significantly improved it’s success rate since adopting citizen management software. For example, their recycling “miss rate” has dropped to 0.0001%, according to Erika Storlie, deputy city manager for Evanston. The software streamlined operations and improved response times, resulting in a better overall experience for citizens

Providing an Enhanced Citizen Experience

Enhanced citizen experience, in turn, leads to increased engagement. The seamless, automated communication provided by these software solutions ensures that residents receive updates and notifications throughout the entire process, from issue submission to resolution. This real-time communication and transparency make citizens feel heard and valued, thereby encouraging their active participation. Municipalities that have adopted citizen engagement solutions reported up to a 20% increase in resident participation in council meetings and other community events.
Happy citizens

Making Informed, Data Backed Decisions

Data and analytics also play a crucial role in the issue management process. The ability to identify areas of concern allows department heads and management to proactively address issues before they escalate. Additionally, analyzing trends provides insights into the most pressing concerns facing citizens, whether positive or negative. Armed with this information, councils and management can make informed policy decisions, allocate resources appropriately, and foster a thriving community that prioritizes the voice of its residents.


AccessE11: The #1 Rated Citizen Management Software

At AccessE11, we offer an alternative to traditional 311 software that is purpose-built and priced to meet the needs of smaller communities. Our system is designed to automate day-to-day tasks and reporting, freeing up staff time to focus on innovation and delivering even better service outcomes.


Protect the Seniors in Your Community with Age Safe Senior Home Safety Specialist™ Training


Keeping Seniors Safe in Their Own Homes


The desire to remain in our own homes as we age has been significantly increased over the past few years. The COVID pandemic highlighted that our home is our haven. COVID also focused some negative thoughts about our current senior institutional living arrangements in Canada.


With the increased demand of the public for answers and solutions for remaining in their own homes we have been seeing an increase in the overall awareness by healthcare professionals, government, and financial institutions to make ready for the massive wave of need. A simple and acceptable means to help with these changes is to start making more robust plans and budgets that support Aging in Place.


Most communities have developed programs and infrastructure for seniors because they remain an integral part of your community’s heart and soul.  We believe that a part of those programs should include an assessment of the current living arrangements of elderly citizens in their homes by professionals and volunteers. This assessment serves as a baseline and risk indicator for your support mechanisms and your elderly citizens. Having the background knowledge of general safety concerns including the ever-present risk of falling will be a crucial learning for all involved.


A Senior Home Safety Specialist™ designation gives the users an underpinning of knowledge to help identify risk and help plan the next steps to safe Aging in Place.


The course is on-line, self-paced (5-6 hour), self-directed and hits the salient points to make practical decisions about safety within the home.


Volunteer groups, municipal staff, community policing, EMS services and senior groups have found that this training not just empowers the messages of safe living and falls prevention but also can be viewed as another risk mediator for staff and volunteers who are entering private homes on a regular basis and therefore by extension expanding their own workplace. This training can assist in protecting themselves as well.


We are happy to speak to any and all interested parties and look forward to having this curriculum be accepted as the navigational source for safety in the seniors’ home.


For more information, visit Age Safe Canada.



The power of plain language in the ChatGPT age

Does it sometimes seem that no one is listening, or even reading? Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your work is being marginalized, or even ignored? Experience and research tells us that it’s not you, or your work. It’s how you’re saying it.
A recent study in the U.S. proves the point, with data to back it up. The aptly-titled The Effectiveness of Plain Language Proven by Data showed that 72 per cent of readers preferred plain language in disclosure documents. Why? The benefits of plain language include faster reading, quicker understanding, and better message retention. Sixty four percent of readers perceived the plain language text as well-written, making them more inclined to accept and appreciate the message in the document.
How can you take advantage of this in your work? The U.S. National Archives sums it up neatly: “Plain language is clear, concise, organized, and appropriate for the intended audience.” Their Top 10 Principles for Plain Language provide a clear road map to help anyone who writes (and isn’t that everyone?) improve their communication. Their list follows, with my own examples from many years of writing and editing for a variety of clients who will remain nameless.

1. Write for your reader, not yourself. Use pronouns when you can.
The first step here is to identify the reader. It’s not you. Is it your boss, your subordinate, your client or user base, or all three? As you write, picture them reading and understanding your message. Will they “get it” on the first pass? They will only be impressed with you and your work if they do. Use language and diction they will immediately understand.
Unless you are literally writing for a Grade 7 audience, don’t write for a Grade 7 audience, or any other arbitrary measure. A client recently told me that they wanted a Grade 7 reading level, for a public-facing document addressing some serious and complex societal issues. “How many Grade 7 students will be reading the document?” I asked. They understood immediately. The goal is to communicate with your audiences, not hit the magic number on an arbitrary (and often inaccurate) scale.
Needless repetitions of nouns bore and annoy the reader. Pronouns are your friends. Yes, they are your friends. Use them wisely and see readability and comprehension soar.

2. State your major point(s) first before going into details.
The “inverted pyramid” model of writing was invented to deal with the limited space on a printed page. Copy editors can always squeeze a story into a tight space by starting with the most important points and then lopping off the details from the bottom until the content fits. The reader still gets the salient points. Ironically, with the limitless space now offered by digital media, this principle is more important than ever. The short attention span of today’s readers ensures that many will only read the first few lines of your work. Make them count!

3. Stick to your topic. Limit each paragraph to one idea and keep it short.
Did I tell you about the time I had to edit this piece? I was having a bad day, because my dog had just run away with the circus, and then I started to write. Well, …
Some lucky people can simply start writing at the beginning, and know exactly where to start a new paragraph. Others among us need some sort of outline. Rather than spending hours outlining, take pen in hand and write out the key words for each paragraph. In writing this piece, I cheated a bit by using the structure of the Top 10 principles I referred to at the start. Either way, you always need some sort of structure, however minimalist.
As a speech writing teacher once told me, it’s a simple three-step process to write and deliver a good speech. 1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. 2. Tell them. 3. Tell them what you just told them. (You may have to read that aloud to make sense of it.) In other words, your writing should have an introduction, a body, and a summary. This applies to the document as a whole, and also to each paragraph.

4. Write in active voice. Use the passive voice only in rare cases.
This is the one that many people either don’t understand, or ignore. Many organizations subtly encourage the passive voice to serve as an insurance policy for incompetence or timidity. Lawyers, bureaucrats, and accountants are especially susceptible to this. Here’s an example from an audit report.
The scope of our audit included a general review of the operating and reporting practices, together with analysis and assessment of the financial and other records, as we considered appropriate in the circumstances. It also included such tests and analysis as well as discussions and interviews as deemed necessary.
Here’s the plain language version:
We assessed operating and reporting practices and financial and other records. We also interviewed staff and management.

5. Use short sentences as much as possible.
Readers get lost in a long sentence. Be suspicious of more than one comma. Beware of “boilerplate” phrases that lengthen your sentences. Follow the natural English order of Subject, Verb, and Object.
Another example from an audit report:
Our observations lead us to the conclusion that the clinic is in default.
The clinic is in default.

6. Use everyday words. If you must use technical terms, explain them on the first reference.
Tailor your vocabulary to your readers. If you’re not sure whether the reader will understand a word, provide a short definition. I recently edited a document where the word “intersectionality” (where multiple forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect) was prominent. With the rise of neologisms (new words, usages, or expressions) in every field, this is more important than ever.

7. Omit unneeded words.
Excess verbiage (too many words) is the bane of many writers, especially those with professional designations. You will not impress anyone with writing that forces the reader along a tortuous path to enlightenment. Get to the point!

8. Keep the subject and verb close together.
It’s almost always better to follow the natural English order of Subject, Verb, and Object.
Having ascertained the whereabouts of its perennial foe, the cat, which was known for a visceral dislike (possibly hatred) of virtually all of the rodents it encountered on its nocturnal perambulations, killed the mouse.
Or, “The cat killed the mouse.”
Showy consultant language as above puts a lot of distance between the subject and the verb and object. It does nothing to deliver the message.

9. Use headings, lists, and tables to make reading easier.
Short sentences are good. To shorten them where there is a long list, use a colon and bullets. Never add commas or semi-colons to bullet points. The bullet points are all the punctuation you need. In the editing business, these are known as redundant redundancies.

10. Proofread your work, and have a colleague proof it as well.
Spell check eliminates most errors, but even the best bot won’t notice if you miss word. Errors like the missing “a”in the previous sentence are very common. They are sloppy and harm your credibility. To avoid them, print out your work. Follow along with a “read-aloud” from your word processor. Asking a colleague to team up for a read-aloud proofing is usually not practical, but tech and paper get the job done. You will be amazed at how many errors you can find with this method.

What about the chatbot?
So what does this have to do with ChatGPT? Absolutely nothing. But if you have read this far, you have learned the power of a good lead. And you have also learned how to better communicate with your audiences.


Change takes time. The Future is approaching.

So, our first piece of advice is to start thinking about it now. And yes, you can ease into the future; it does not have to happen tomorrow.

When organizations are planning out their new, or enhanced physical security needs we are often asked what are the trends that are likely to shape physical security in the future?

The same question is usually followed up with… “If we do this, or if we buy this, will this sustain us in the future?”

Which also can be interpreted to… “So, we don’t have to buy something else, and that this will last us a long time, right?”

Good questions, but always a challenge to answer. Many factors play out as resistance or even catalysts to these questions and their subsequent decisions. Risk exposure, budgets, actual realized events, change in the organization’s focus, change in the organization’s leadership, campaign promises, or even change in some environments, regulation or legislation “forcing” a change, all impact the ‘future’ question.

What are those future trends shaping physical security? Some trends outlined in the list below may be a surprise, some may appear too futuristic.

  1. Increased use of biometric security measures: Biometric security measures, such as fingerprint scanners and facial recognition technology, are becoming more popular as they offer a high level of accuracy and are difficult to bypass.
  2. Rise of smart security systems: Smart security systems are becoming more common, and these systems often use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze video footage and detect potential threats.
  3. Greater emphasis on cybersecurity: As more security systems become connected to the internet, cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly important consideration. Companies are investing in measures to protect against cyber-attacks that could compromise their security systems.
  4. Increased use of drones: Drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System(s) (RPAS) are being used more frequently for security purposes, such as patrolling large areas, inspecting high-risk locations or even in response to incidents in providing real-time surveillance.
  5. Greater use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in training: VR and AR are being used to train security personnel in simulated environments, allowing them to practice their skills and respond to potential threats in a safe and controlled setting.
  6. Integration of physical and cybersecurity: As threats evolve and become more sophisticated, it is increasingly important for physical security and cybersecurity to work together to provide comprehensive protection. This integration may involve integrating cybersecurity measures into physical security systems, such as installing firewall protection on security cameras.

Biometrics, smart security systems, cybersecurity emphasis and the integration of physical and cybersecurity have been on our radar for several years now and have been introduced into our past and current projects with great adoption by our client base.

The trend not mentioned here but remains a constant for us, is the due diligence required to ensure the “paperwork” is complete, up to date, used and enforced. Your policies, and procedures, training programs, guidance documents and standards are the backbones for all these physical security tools to work in the manner they were intended for your organization.

Of course, great planning and the execution of that plan is essential. Planning is a cyclical process that can start, stop, and reset when required. The future is changing. Be prepared.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

Reach out. We can help.

Should your Municipality need assistance, contact Michael White Group International today, and we will be happy to answer your questions. Visit


Efficiency: The Side Effect of Effective Citizen Engagement

Increasing efficiency can often be a challenging task and can come at a cost. Whether it be increased monetary costs to implement a new process in your workplace, or increased labour costs to train and bring on new staff, efficiency comes at a price. But imagine if you could implement a digital municipal citizen engagement solution for your community. One that looks to improve your residents’ engagement and overall satisfaction, and also benefit by handling more service requests with shorter turnaround times.

The Necessity of a Digital Solution for Municipal Citizen Engagement

In our increasingly digital world, properly implemented digital options are no longer a luxury. They are a demand. Consumers expect the solution to their problem to be solvable online – often without needing to speak to a person at all. This expectation has existed in private industry for quite some time and has now pivoted to government services as well.

Not providing a digital option has some very negative consequences. The customer will be significantly more dissatisfied or even worse, will choose not to engage at all. What this means for a municipality is that there is a large subset of your population that will avoid interacting with their local government if there is no digital solution provided for them.

Of course, providing this option for your residents will be a primary benefit. In fact, there is evidence showing that having a properly developed citizen engagement tool online can lead to improvements in the municipality for both citizens and leaders. However, there is another added benefit that isn’t as frequently discussed when looking at implementing a citizen engagement solution – the benefit of getting more done without needing to increase resources.

The Cost of Efficiency

Efficiency is something that is constantly strived for, whether it be private companies or government operations at any level. By definition, increasing efficiency allows you to get more done with the same or fewer resources. In a business, this might allow you to deliver your product or service more quickly or decrease the overall cost of creating your product. For a municipality, it might mean decreasing the time it takes to close a resident’s service request ticket.

On this topic, you might reasonably ask if a citizen engagement program might have a downside of decreasing efficiency. You are opening your staff to more communication with citizens and therefore increasing the volume of service requests coming in, and both staff and citizens both have to learn a new system. In other words, better citizen engagement could come at a cost to your department. Now imagine if you could increase the volume of service requests handled by your municipality AND at the same time increase the overall efficiency with which these are addressed. Let us look at how that’s possible.

We recently went through our customers’ usage habits to figure out basic information on how our customers are using AccessE11. Almost by accident, we discovered clear and direct links between engagement of citizens and increased efficiency within the municipality. To understand this better, let’s look at how staff and residents are using AccessE11 to submit service requests.

Some Data

The first piece of data is quite simple – submissions of service requests using AccessE11 over the past five years. Although this is straightforward, it is a very good sign. It shows that the longer a municipality has been a customer of AccessE11, the more frequently they are using it to streamline their service request process.

Growth over year
And this is not just the case for larger municipalities. In general, smaller municipalities might think that there is less need for digital solutions to meet the needs of their communities, but our customers are living proof that it is often the residents of smaller municipalities who crave engagement with their local government. One of our current customers, Hastings Highlands, is a wonderful example of how a well-executed digital solution can positively impact a small municipality.

Growth by population

So, this is all great, albeit somewhat expected data. However, you might be asking “what does this have to do with efficiency?” Well, that’s where a third set of data sheds some light, and this was discovered entirely by accident. Analyzing the usage data and looking at trends, we discovered something amazing. Given the first two charts, it’s easy to see that usage of AccessE11 by staff and citizens is increasing year over year. However, this data doesn’t address efficiency and simply focuses on total usage. But let’s look at this next chart.

Days to complete

This is a chart that takes all service requests raised over the past six years and looks at how long it takes for each service request to resolve and be closed. In aggregate, time to close is VASTLY decreased year over year.

What Does This Mean?

So, what does this mean for your municipality? It means that adopting a strong digital solution for municipal citizen engagement and managing service requests not only increases community contribution and overall satisfaction, but it also increases efficiency internally. Increasing efficiency leads to a direct savings of resources for your departments. Whether that be time, money, or a combination of both, your municipality can see a significant increase in service requests and still decrease the time it takes to manage these requests. Best of all, because AccessE11 is designed specifically for small to medium municipalities, it is created with your specific challenges in mind.

Don’t wait any longer to implement a solution for your municipality. The demand for digital services increases year over year. It is quickly becoming a requirement for every facet of business and life. Signing up for AccessE11 will give your community a strong, adaptable solution to manage service requests, increase your efficiency, and end up saving money rather than costing money.



Processing FOI Requests Off the Corner of Your Desk


Many public sector entities process FOI requests using generic applications such as Microsoft Excel.  In this article, Vayle guest blogger Else Khoury discusses how workflow automation software can streamline FOI processing and mitigate compliance risks. 

In an election year, municipal staff have a lot on their minds: hiring support teams, organizing polling stations, counting votes, and onboarding new council members; not to mention keeping the regular machinery of municipal programs and operations running – more or less – smoothly. Throw the processing of freedom of information (FOI) requests into the mix, and things can go sideways quickly.

Many municipal entities reported an increase in FOI request volume during an election year, often related to candidates’ positions on hot-button issues (mask mandates, anyone?), but also for answers to the questions that decide votes: meeting attendance and voting records, to name only two. Processing FOI requests can prove especially challenging for smaller municipal entities that lack the resources or expertise that larger municipal entities, which often process hundreds of requests every year, have. The FOI request process can be difficult, even at the best of times and even for the most seasoned municipal staff.

Volumes are increasing

Although the number of FOI requests across Ontario dropped somewhat in the first year of the pandemic, requests in 2021 were back up and approaching pre-pandemic levels. According to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) of Ontario, over 60,000 requests were filed in 2019, while in 2020, that number dropped to around 44,000. In 2021, more than 55,000 FOI requests were filed across provincial and municipal entities in Ontario. Some have seen a surge in activity, particularly when implementing online FOI request forms and e-payment options.

So many requests, such little time

Initially, upon receiving a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), municipal entities are bound by the 30-day response period. Once the request has been received and confirmed, the real work begins: finding records. This task can be particularly challenging for municipal entities that lack electronic records management solutions.

The search for e-records, including emails, in and of itself can easily extend the response timeframe outside the established 30-day limit. This is followed by the inevitable review, sorting, copying and redacting of records, at the end of which 30 days rarely feels like enough time. Of course, time extensions are always an option. Still, since requestors can challenge them by going directly to the Office of the IPC, the designated Head must carefully consider the risk of employing this option.

Next comes exemptions. As is the case with all legislation, the devil is in the details. With a laundry list of mandatory and discretionary exemptions to choose from, MFIPPA is rife with options. And because exemption descriptions can be complex and verbose, it is sometimes difficult to know which one to apply and when. When making a disclosure decision, the best option for the Head (or their delegate) is to review IPC orders related to the request in question to see how the IPC has ruled in the past. However, this approach often takes more time than is allowed when you’re in the position of processing FOI off the corner of your desk; and when IPC decisions on a particular issue are numerous (consider that a search on IPC orders related to “dog bites” yields 27 orders!).

Legacy tools are inefficient

For most municipal entities, processing FOI requests is still a manual exercise. Microsoft Excel and other software applications are often used for this purpose: Requests are logged and tracked in spreadsheets or databases, which lack the ability to track timelines and schedule each step of the request. It usually takes a day to send a confirmation to the requestor, a week for the department to send files to you, and about two weeks to collate, redact, etc. Without a means to track these timelines, municipal staff are forced to manually track each part of the process in addition to their core job duties.
All public sector organizations in Ontario that are subject to either FIPPA, MFIPPA or PHIPA must submit annual statistics to the IPC. Reporting requirements account for the number of requests received and processed, how long it took to respond, total privacy breaches, and the number of appeals filed with the IPC. Processing inefficiencies only add to the workload.

The benefits of FOI automation

Some municipal entities utilize purpose-built software to simplify and track FOI processing and annual reporting tasks. There are several benefits to this approach:

  1. Save time when inputting and tracking requests, fee calculations, maintaining records, addressing appeals, and publishing reporting statistics.
  2. Mitigate risks associated with missing response deadlines, improperly calculating fees, and publishing inaccurate reports.
  3. Improve insights through advanced reporting, tracking everything from total requests to year-over-year performance comparisons.

Assess your FOI program

If you are unsure about whether FOI automation will benefit your organization, consider conducting a simple three-step analysis:

  1. Map your workflow using a simple document to identify each step of your FOI processing system. Identify areas which are creating bottlenecks.
  2. Estimate the time required to fulfill each stage of your FOI processing system, starting with intake through to the appeals process.
  3. Overlay the benefits of automation into your current workflow, estimating the time saved by automating each task multiplied by the number of FOIs processed annually.

An FOI automation solution purpose-built for Canadian public sector entities 

If you believe FOI automation could benefit your municipal entity, consider Vayle FOI (formerly Nordat), a software application that streamlines the end-to-end workflow for FOI requests. While Vayle FOI provides many of the benefits mentioned above, some clients have reduced their workload by as much as two weeks through the application’s automated annual reporting feature alone. Vayle is currently offering complimentary assessments to help public sector entities estimate the amount of time and money that can be saved by utilizing their FOI automation solution.

Customers range from small municipal entities to large police services agencies processing over 1,000 FOI requests annually, some of which have been users of the software, and its modernized versions, for over 15 years. Built and hosted in Canada, Vayle FOI was designed specifically with the Canadian public sector in mind.

Guest Blogger: Else Khoury

Else Khoury has worked in the municipal privacy field for almost 20 years, and currently provides training and advisory services in the areas of Records and Information Management and Access and Privacy. She holds a Master’s of Information Studies degree from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, an Information Access and Privacy Protection (IAPP) certificate from the University of Alberta, as well as the designations of CIP and ERM Master (AIIM International).