Sarah Bowers-Peter is a civilian employee of the Ontario Provincial Police, and a member of the OPP Association. We are honoured to profile Sarah and her career in this blog post for National Police Week 2021.
In 2010 a friend reached out to Sarah Bowers-Peter and suggested she apply for a position in the newly created Civilian Data Entry Unit (CDE) being tested by Ontario Provincial Police in Wellington County.
Bowers-Peter, with a background in journalism as well marketing and development, could see parallels with her skillset, but it was her history of covering Provincial Offences Court and her relationships with municipal police service and OPP members that prompted her to give CDE a try.
After four years in the CDE Unit, the role of civilian Program Coordinator was created for Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington. The staffing of this position had historically been Wellington County OPP’s and she was keen to apply as it was a natural progression from her current role.
“When I looked at the job description, I felt like it was made for me,” said Bowers-Peter. The communication, marketing, and public engagement aspects of the program as well as the sensitive nature of Tip taking was not foreign to her. She dove into the role and learned everything she could about the local Crime Stoppers once she was named to the role in July 2014.
“I didn’t make any significant changes in the first year,” she recalls, “but there were a couple of things I wanted to explore right away.”
Once she was established, Bowers-Peter felt strongly about community engagement and recreated a student Crime Stoppers presentation. This was the foundation of a United Way grant which snowballed into updating all the Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington (CSGW) presentations. There are now five presentations offered by CSGW; Crime Stoppers 101, Crime Stoppers for Seniors, Student Crime Stoppers, Crime Stoppers & Business and Human Trafficking & Crime Stoppers. Demand for the presentations has grown steadily every year since. In 2019 Bowers-Peter logged 67 public presentations in addition to her other duties.
She dove into social media to create a presence for the program and make the public aware that there was a safe, anonymously method of reporting crime for those who did not want report directly to police. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube platforms were established or enhanced. Eventually the CSGW website was overhauled and became a current and effective presence online for those wanting to learn more about Crime Stoppers or wanting to report a crime. The work paid off as Tip volumes increased and public awareness grew.
Media partnerships were developed or enhanced, and broadcasters and hosts were pleased to see ongoing and committed engagement, with Bowers-Peter open to suggestions on customizing the content for their individual needs.
Bowers-Peter submitted CSGW for awards from the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers (OACS) and Crime Stoppers International (CSI) and was extremely successful, winning 33 accolades in 6 years. These include awards in radio and television categories as well as social media, website, creation of new programs and fundraisers. CSGW has been named to the Marla Moon Memorial Award of Excellence for its population category every year since 2015.
Coordinator Achievement (OACS 2019) and Paul D. Boudreau Coordinator of the Year (CSI 2020) were directed to Bowers-Peter. She also received a Commissioner’s Letter from OPP recognizing her work with CSGW in 2018.
“We are proud of these awards, because it demonstrates to the community that the work we are doing in Guelph Wellington is being recognized at a higher level. We are doing great things here and the public should feel confident that they are engaging with reputable organization,” she stated.
Bowers-Peter has reached beyond the boundaries of Guelph and the County of Wellington, to sit on the OACS Board of Directors. She has served in a number of capacities, and is presently the chair of the Technology and Communications Committee. As a result of that engagement, she was invited to sit on the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association, where she was then appointed the Chair of Communications. While her heart is still with CSGW, she is pleased to be able to use her skills to benefit other programs as well as the provincial and national bodies.
“I really believe we are stronger when we are all have the same tools and opportunities,” said Bowers-Peter, who is creating training modules for OACS for fellow coordinators, as well as investigators who will be handling Crime Stoppers tips. She is also assisting with online coordinator training to help individuals who are new to the role to have the same training virtually that they would receive during the annual provincial conference, currently suspended due to Covid-19.
By moving CSGW into a pro-active organization, and not just a reactive one, Bowers-Peter was able to use the platform for crime awareness. Illegal Dumping and Human Trafficking are two such examples. She also feels strongly about supporting Victim Services Wellington and Guelph Wellington Women In Crisis (GWWIC), stating that if the public can report a crime, they can provide closure for a victim. It is possible to prevent a crime from happening, if it is reported soon enough, she points out.
Bowers-Peter sits on the Leadership Table of the Guelph Wellington Action Council on Domestic Violence, Safe Communities Wellington County and Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy. This has resulted in collaborations where CSGW is positioned as supportive community agency as well as a logical option for an audience that may not be familiar with the idea of anonymously and confidential reporting crime.
Supporting other Crime Stoppers programs is a priority for her as well. Bowers-Peter initiated Coordinator meetings; bi-annual sessions that allow peers in Southwest Region the ability to connect, ask questions, find comradery, and ultimately support in a role that is varied from program to program. Both OPP and municipal support coordinators attend with enthusiasm.
“I really enjoy the challenges this role brings,” said Bowers-Peter. “There is always something that can be improved, there is always a question from another coordinator, and I really want this program to continue to evolve and be relevant. It makes such a difference.”