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Local calls to police continue to dip below pre-pandemic levels

This year is still ‘on trend to be a record-breaking year for calls for service,’ says South Simcoe Police deputy chief

The summer months meant plenty of activity for South Simcoe Police Service.

Deputy Chief Sheryl Sutton provided the monthly operational and financial updates for July and August during the police services board meeting at the Innisfil Town Hall on Wednesday.

The operating reports showed 2,530 total calls for service in July with 43.9 per cent in Bradford and 56.1 per cent in Innisfil, followed by 2,429 total calls for service in August with 44.6 per cent in Bradford and 55.4 per cent in Innisfil.

Earlier in the year, most months had seen a greater number of calls for service than in the most recent pre-pandemic year of 2019, but June saw almost the same number of calls and July and August saw noticeably fewer calls.

For 2019, the report showed 2,740 total calls for service in July and 2,694 total calls for service in August.

Previously, only April of 2023 had noticeably fewer calls at 2,605, compared to 2,663 in 2019.

The report showed 20,889 total calls by the end of August 2023, compared to 20,367 at the same time in 2019.

While Sutton agreed that it’s a positive sign to see calls for service over the last two months no longer trending quite as high as in 2019, she also noted that 2019 was itself “an anomaly year,” and that 2023 is still “on trend to be a record-breaking year for calls for service.”

“We’re generally around the 25,000 calls for service a year, but when we’re getting over 2,000 calls for service a month, I anticipate we’ll be in the high 28,000 to maybe even 30,000 calls for service,” she said.

Only 46 of July’s 2,530 calls for service were the highest priority 1, while 876 were priority 4 and 664 were priority 7.

There were some areas in which calls decreased in July 2023 compared to July 2022, including:

  • Thefts from vehicles decreased to nine from 14;
  • Vehicles stolen decreased to six from 11;
  • Impaired decreased to 17 from 32

However, there were other areas in which calls increased in July 2023 compared to July 2022, including:

  • Provincial offence notices increased to 472 from 256;
  • Assaults increased to 15 from six;
  • Landlord disputes increased to 29 from 19;
  • Frauds increased to 22 from 16;
  • Commercial break and enters increased to eight from five

Only 34 of August’s 2,429 calls for service were the highest priority 1, while 838 were priority 4 and 627 were priority 7.

There were some areas in which calls decreased in August 2023 compared to August 2022, including:

  • Break and enters decreased to five from 13;
  • Vehicles stolen decreased to eight from 17;
  • Domestics decreased to 63 from 75;
  • Impaired decreased to 15 from 19

However, there were other areas in which calls increased in August 2023 compared to August 2022, including:

  • Frauds increased to 47 from 23;
  • Assaults increased to 19 from 10;
  • Landlord disputes increased to 23 from 14;
  • Provincial offence notices increased to 454 from 298

Sutton acknowledged that year over year, non-violent crimes such as frauds and landlord tenant disputes are up noticeably.

“I think with frauds, a lot of it is online like the grandparent scam, the cryptocurrencies and the phishing expeditions. What we’re seeing in the last few years and certainly this year and last year is that the online frauds are the ones that are going up,” she said.

When it comes to landlord and tenant issues, she can’t say for sure, but Sutton suspects it could be related to the backlog at the province’s Landlord and Tenant Board.

“Those disputes are not being resolved in a quick manner, so we’re not going there once or twice, we’re going there half a dozen times because that process is taking a lot longer,” she said.

By the end of August, the service had issued 3,693 provincial offence notices compared to 4,150 for all of 2022.

While Bradford saw 31 speed camera warning letters sent to drivers in July and another 68 in August, Sutton explained that the speed camera in Innisfil was out of service.

As started at the previous meeting in July, Sutton had planned to provide a breakdown of the number of vehicles caught by the cameras exceeding the speed limit by various amounts, but apologized to the board as she did not have the information on hand for the meeting.

“There are maybe ten cars that are significantly over the speed limits, and that information is sent to officers so they can pay special attention to certain vehicles in the area that are continuously speeding in our communities,” she said.

Chris Gariepy, board chair, asked the deputy chief if she felt the speed cameras were effective at changing driving behaviours, and while she doesn’t suspect it has an impact at the time of speeding, Sutton said drivers are likely to think twice after an officer comes knocking on the door to talk to them about it.

“We have those repeat people that their plates keep showing up, and then the officers begin paying attention to certain individuals, then you may see a decrease in those individuals, but again, those that are inclined to go 20 to 30 km/h over the speed limit are going to continue doing so,” she said.

Gariepy responded by saying “those figures are shocking,” but quickly added that on the other hand, “there’s some very, very aggressive drivers in our communities.”

Sutton was quick to remind the board that “it’s not just our communities; it’s everywhere.”

Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin also noted that the warning cameras currently installed are not as visible to motorists as they could be, which reduces the potential for deterrence.

She added that automated speed enforcement (ASE) photo radar cameras are expected to be implemented in some Innisfil community safety zones and school zones starting in the first quarter of 2024.

Bradford Mayor James Leduc added that his town is also working toward implementing ASE “very soon,” and that while he appreciates the presence of the warning cameras, he suspects issuing more tickets will have a bigger impact.

“Hit ‘em in their pocket; that’ll get ‘em. That’s where it hurts the most,” he said, adding he’s hoping to see four speed cameras and three or four red-light cameras active in Bradford.

July saw 129 motor vehicle collisions with 57 in Bradford and 72 Innisfil. Out of all of those 20 resulted in injury, with two fatalities.

August saw 122 motor vehicle collisions with 53 in Bradford and 69 Innisfil. Out of all of those 17 resulted in injury, with no fatalities.

Crisis calls were down slightly with 32 in July compared to 42 in June, but came with their own challenges.

Of those 32 crisis calls, only six were handled by the Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST), while 26 were handled by front-line officers.

August also saw 32 crisis calls, with just four handled by COAST and 28 by front-line workers.

Sutton had previously explained that the issue came down to timing, with many crisis calls coming in at times when crisis workers weren’t available, and gave examples such as 11 p.m., 1 a.m., 3 a.m. and on weekends.

To help overcome that hurdle, Sutton had applied for a grant from the provincial government, and while she couldn’t disclose the dollar value, she hopes it will help fund the service’s partners whose crisis workers join officers on COAST, and is hoping to receive a response to the application sometime in October or November.

During his regular verbal update, Chief John Van Dyke explained the service scales back attendance to community events in the summer, due to staff being away on vacations, but he expects that participation to ramp up again in the fall.

“As we head into the Christmas season we will be out in our community in full force again,” he said.

The chief still had various engagements over the summer including: Rotary meetings in Innisfil, the Pride flag raising in Bradford, a meeting with the Barrie Police Chief to discuss co-operation on vehicle theft investigations, and attending Innisfil Rib Fest among others.

Van Dyke also noted on Sept. 6, four new recruits were hired by the service and four separate staff also left the service.

This past weekend, members of the service attended the Canadian Peace Officers’ Memorial in Ottawa which honoured fallen SSPS members Const. Devon Northrup, 33, and Const. Morgan Russell, 54, who lost their lives in a shooting while responded to a disturbance at an Innisfil home on Oct. 11, last year.

The event in Ottawa followed Bradford’s official dedication ceremony in which the former Middletown Park was renamed to Constable Devon Northrup Memorial Park at 140 Langford Boulevard on Monday, Sept. 18, and the Town of Innisfil renamed its South Innisfil Arena and Community Centre to Morgan Russell Memorial Arena and Community Centre, in June.

Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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