Pierre Fortin
Partner | CPA, CA | Management consulting

Cities are evolving demographically and their health and security needs have changed. How can cities address these new challenges?

If a serious incident or disaster occurs, emergency services are immediately in the limelight. More and more, citizens are informed in real time and they have increasingly greater expectations regarding police and fire interventions. In such a context, it’s natural to wonder if these services have adapted their traditional reactive approach and, most importantly, how they can be more proactive.

Main public security issues

Public security organizations are directly impacted by a number of socio-demographic factors. The most significant in Quebec are listed below.

Annual growth rate

This rate is declining, due in large part to the low birth rate.


Immigration has been increasing constantly in the past 30 years and is offsetting the low birth rate while changing the socio-demographic profile of many localities.

Aging population

Since 2016, seniors outnumber younger people for the first time in Canadian census history.

Changing crime rates

Although a significant number of people mistakenly believe the crime rate is up, overall, it has in fact been dropping in recent years (37.9% decline from 2006 to 2015); however, some types of crime are on the rise (e.g., cyber-crime).

Mental health

Interventions with individuals with mental health issues are increasing each year. For example, the City of Québec Police Department reports that the number of calls in 2016 in this respect was 30% higher than in the previous year.


The total number of fires is down (down 25% between 2010 and 2014), but the rate of fatalities due to fires is increasing.

The impact of these socio-demographic changes on public security organizations can easily be imagined. Police and fire departments must therefore adapt their activities and service delivery to these realities. Can they anticipate trends and the resulting impacts to be more proactive both with citizens and in terms of their operating methods?

Changes initiated

Municipal budgets for public security organizations are constantly being reviewed and questioned. However, the expectations of elected officials and citizens for lower cost services are growing. This is why many organizations have already taken action:

  • Combining some services or activities to deploy resources on a territorial basis;
  • Entering into partnerships and intermunicipal agreements with community organizations, citizens groups and, sometimes, provincial and federal agencies to create a reinforced and integrated public security network.

Do the measures implemented adequately reflect the current challenges? How can organizations set their priorities to appropriately address rapidly evolving needs?

Tangible solutions

Despite the complexity of police and fire department activities, there are several options available to efficiently address the above-mentioned issues using recognized best practices. We have listed them by subject matter.

Sound governance

  • Adopt a policy on the quality of services to be provided with clear, published standards, objectives and measurement mechanisms;
  • Prepare a strategic plan and ensure strict priority management;
  • Focus on preventive rather than corrective actions.

Human resources

  • Diversify internal recruiting to be more representative of the population;
  • Develop and introduce a human resources plan with a short-, medium- and long-term perspective;
  • Provide tailored training to managers to bolster the development of management skills.

Client experience

Strategic collaboration

  • Create and reinforce true partnerships (beyond consultation) with public security institutions and organizations to improve the prevention and public education service offering;
  • Work together with various levels (municipal, regional, provincial and national) as well as with private security services, government agencies, local community organizations and citizen associations.

Exploit data

  • Use new advanced analytics tools to improve the predictive ability:
    • Detecting risks areas and determining areas at higher risk for disasters;
    • Mapping risks to optimize resource planning and reducing the response time.


  • Develop new multiplatform communication tools (automated text messages, social networks, etc.);
  • Develop strategic communication plans taking the various partners and at-risk population segments into consideration.

In short, by identifying and implementing targeted, collaborative actions within a global management perspective, organizations would be able to anticipate the challenges they face.

Contact our experts. They can provide advice and support for your initiative to provide efficient public security services adapted to your citizens’ needs.

03 Dec 2018  |  Written by :

Pierre Fortin is a partner at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. He is your expert in Management...

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