With a full board comprised of Chris Fisher, Daniel Gagné, Rachelle Laflèche, Denis Sénécal, Roch St-Louis and secretary Mélanie Hébert, the new team of the West Nipissing Police Services Board (WNPSB) has been able to accomplish items which were on the back burner for the last couple of years, when the board was short two provincial appointees. A new set of bylaws was tabled and adopted by resolution at the June 16th meeting of the WNPSB. Chair Fisher said he was looking forward to getting more accomplished. “It’s been a mess, but that’s COVID!” Board members’ con-tact information is now listed on the West Nipissing municipal website so that members of the public may contact any of them with their concerns. The board is also looking forward to posting advance notice, minutes and reports to the website in the future. The location of future meetings, post COVID restrictions, will be held at the Community Briefing Room of the new detachment building.
The board composition also came up for discussion. Because the OPP West Nipissing covers a large geographic area outside of West Nipissing, inclusive of the former Sudbury detachment, the WNPSB expressed a desire that the area have two separate boards – one for West Nipissing and the other for the remainder of the communities of Sudbury East. Insp. Mike Maville, the Detachment Commander, indicated that the Sudbury East section was not yet organized to the level of West Nipissing. “We came to an agreement with them that they are okay with an autonomous board as well, to run independent of West Nipissing. So, each of you have to agree with the other to remain autonomous, which is not a problem. You’ve already made the request some months ago.” To com-bine the two areas would be, in Maville’s opinion, “A couple of steps backward… They are not yet set up and your interests are very different. You’re a municipality of 15,000 people with lots of services, and lots of calls for service.”
Black Cat Camera Radar
Chair Fisher advised the board that the municipality was purchasing a Black Cat Camera/Radar to determine if complaints of speeding or other behaviours warranted further action on the part of the police. “It’s a radar employed on posts that takes stats and tells you if there is an actual prob-lem on a particular street and what time of day so the police can more effectively deal with it…. It’s on order and the municipality is going to own it… If the OPP owned it they’d have to share it with everybody, and we don’t have to share.”
Maville explained the use through an example. “We got a lot of complaints about Hwy 144 near Dowling… We had a Black Cat… put it up. There was a lot of pressure on this one, a lot of con-cerned citizens… real high-level involvement. We put it up for a week, 20,000 cars went by and less than 5% were speeding. We were able to show and give appropriate data… When your con-stituents are complaining about something and you have raw data in your hand with 20,000 vehi-cles it’s very hard to dispute. …I know we’ve had a lot of complaints on the river, boats going through, we did a fair share of patrols last year. It’s good for snowmobile trails, for waterways, and I think you owning it is a great idea… French River saw some of the results and they want to buy one too, so we may be rich with them in our cluster… You can’t beat that data, especially for the ones on the board who are town councillors. You can stop constituents in their tracks or give merit to what they are saying, which is good either way.”
Detachment building update
According to Maville the new detachment building in Cache Bay is progressing well, on schedule, and the date of July 28th has been given for substantial completion. “Capital Construction will be done on this date, and then there are walk-through periods making sure everything is up to snuff and there are no other issues before we take occupancy of it. Our moving date is scheduled for August 16th. I was in there today… it’s definitely by far the nicest OPP facility I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen plenty of new ones within our region. The offices are done, the drywall is done, they need to finish painting, and lay the flooring down. Glass is going in, doors are going in, the cells are ready.” The technology to support policing still has to go in. “If you drive by you will see all the curbs have been poured… They’ll bring in the asphalt machines in the next bit. Lighting is operational, power is connected… I’m very impressed.” The furniture has been ordered and is sitting in warehouse in Sudbury. The racks and gun safes are already in.
Planning for a formal Grand Opening Ceremony has not begun, but it is expected that dignitaries will be on hand. Maville suggested that it would likely be after the OPP have moved in. “It will be a nice to-do depending on if restrictions are in our favour.” Maville plans to do a walk through with the Police Board first, and then one for the West Nipissing Council.
Insp. Maville told the board that staffing at the detachment is of slight concern. “With the WNPS they didn’t have to go to traffic complaints, but with the OPP you have to go to it. They are time consuming and they could be anywhere in West Nipissing, so we’re slowly trying to patch that and fix it. But overall, the staffing is looking really good in West Nipissing. We’re sending two more recruits for training.” Maville said that the mix of seasoned officers and new recruits makes the detachment an interesting place to work. Normally new recruits work in more remote locations until they can transfer to one of the coveted spots. “You’re running the gamut in West Nipissing, from young to old, and it’s going to constantly renew itself. I find more people are enjoying working out of West Nipissing rather than North Bay because there’s more action. North Bay OPP is not that ex-citing because they don’t do the city.”
Crime stats report
Insp. Maville provided the most recent statistical report. “We’ve had no public complaints over the last 2 months… Cruise Patrol hours were nice and high, just under 700 hours per month and that’s driving around town… no marine hours to account for yet… we have a new officer from Sioux Look-out… We also have another officer you’re all familiar with, Pete Mantha (returning to West Nipis-sing from a temporary assignment).” A new recruit currently at Police College will be assigned to West Nipissing as of October 2.
In the Crime Stats section the only item that raised an eyebrow was an increase of sexual assaults over last year from one to 4. Break and Enters and Mischiefs are up slightly over last year. “I think people cooped up and having nothing better to do has caused some havoc and mischief, as you saw at the beach. So, we’re doing more patrols around town to get to those areas where people hang out.” There was little change in drug crimes. “Our drug unit is always looking and working hard.” Clearance rates for violent crime were slightly down for the same period as last year, but the dif-ference was 4.1%, which is not consequential. Property crime clearance rates dipped, and Maville indicated he wants to keep those over the 20% benchmark. Traffic related charges were a lot high-er in 2020, but the Inspector indicated he thought those stats would increase as more people get their vaccinations. He explained that the police in 2020-2021 had a higher threshold for speeding in order to reduce physical contact, but that threshold is going back to normal, so charges for speeding and seatbelt infractions may increase.
Included was an Opioid Report, giving year over years stats. Occurrences, year over year, are down. “We’ve only had 2 Fentanyl cases, which is actually good. I know it’s never great, but if you look at last year all the drugs we had in the community, we had had 7 Oxycodone, 5 Hydromorphone, 5 Heroin, 32 Fentanyl; to have this year where we’re sitting at 2 Fentanyl, that’s really good… I’ll take that as a slight win; we’ll see what the summer brings… There’s an awful lot of drug possession charges last year compared to this year… That’s not to say it’s not out there, but we haven’t had any Naloxone deployments either… Things have slowed down, for now. I’m not going to get excited, but for now it’s looking positive.”