The West Nipissing Police Services Board (WNPSB) held its first meeting of 2023 on January 11th, with the new board composition minus one appointee. Board members Roch St-Louis and Dan Gagné, former local and provincial appointees, were re-assigned as board members representing municipal council, Rachelle Laflèche remains the sole provincial appointee, and Jean-Guy Séguin, retired dairy farmer and cash cropper, now sits as a municipal appointee from the public at large. One more appointment from the public will be made. Dan Gagné, who was elected as chair at this meeting, explained the new board composition as “two councillors, 2 members of the public and one provincial appointee… At the moment provincial appointee positions are frozen while the province examines the structure of police service boards.” Rachel Laflèche was elected as vice-chair. Also in attendance was Interim Detachment Commander Bill McMullen, who also serves as Commander of North Bay OPP.
Safe Trade Program
The West Nipissing detachment has been planning a Safe Trade location in their parking lot in Cache Bay for some time. Cdr. McMullen indicated it is definitely going to happen this spring as soon as the weather allows for painting the asphalt. A Safe Trade location allows for the exchange of goods without having the purchase take place at a private residence, making it safer for all involved, a very real consideration particularly for vulnerable persons. McMullen said that once the location is fixed, it will be announced.
2022-2024 RIDE Campaign, WN has most impaired charges
The annual festive R.I.D.E. (Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere) program is funded by the Police Services Board through provincial grants. West Nipissing has received $8,800 for the 2022-23 season, and $8,700 for the 2023-24 season. Cdr. McMullen told the board, “We just got this before Christmas. This RIDE is funded by the PSB. We do RIDE year round that’s not funded, that’s just part of our public safety initiative.” He did have some bad news, “The West Nipissing detachment led the entire region with impaired charges, which is pretty horrible.”
New costing model nets savings
Now that West Nipissing has officially transitioned to the OPP Calls-For-Service cost model, there is a base municipal contribution of $160 per household, and billable hours on top of that. Based on this model, West Nipissing experienced a savings of approximately $1 million in 2022. Cdr. Bill McMullen said, “It’s important to understand this is a very generous model – there’s way more work going on for these calls than you are being billed for.” As an example, he said criminal investigation into sexual assaults in a neighbouring jurisdiction came to a total of $2.4 million, “which (…) gets absorbed by the province… We get major events and all the resources come in… We had that fire in the fall; provincial resources came in for the investigation and that’s not billed back to the community.” 2023 will mark the first full year of the Calls For Service model, after 3 years of collecting data on hours. “Billable hours (2022) were almost identical, within 120 hours, of the previous year (2021). You are going to see some fluctuations.”
More sexual assaults reported
Cdr McMullen compared 2022 crime statistics with the previous year, saying “what jumped off the page for me were the sexual assaults – numbers went from 17 (2021) to 28 (2022)… It’s the worst kind of occurrence… What we’re trying to do as an organization, we want victims to come forward and tell us what happened. Traditionally a lot of victims haven’t felt comfortable coming forward to the police – we’ve undergone a lot of changes to improve our service delivery model, with a trauma-informed approach for victims… Seeing an increase in sexual assaults, it’s obviously not good, but it is good that people feel comfortable coming forward… We want to reassure the public that victims are being supported from the moment they call us to the court process… In 2018 we had a sexual assault review and police across Canada took it on the chin on how we classify and how victims were treated.” McMullen added that significant changes were made. “North Bay has a victim specialist… West Nipissing has access to her.”
Assaults and Property Crimes
The board was told that assaults are up slightly, that most stem from domestic violence and family-related incidents. Break and Enter incidents went up by 9 incidents over the year. “I’ve spoken to the property crimes officer who has put together an analysis for West Nipissing for common trends – he just executed two drug-related warrants this week in West Nipissing… For small property crimes in the community, it’s his job to find out where the drugs are coming from and execute those warrants,” the implication being that these crimes are often drug-related. As well, Theft Over $5000 went up from 1 to 5, with an effort being made to see if there is a pattern. Shoplifting went down slightly, and frauds went down from 23 to 14. “Fraud is relentless,” said McMullen, noting that the OPP continue to communicate, especially to elders, the wide variety of scams, many of them international in scope. In billable hours, Property Crimes went down to 115 hours.
Bail violations on the rise
Cdr. McMullen expressed a global concern police have about bail violations, raising the issue of the recent murder of a police officer in southern Ontario. Bail violations in West Nipissing rose from 52 to 74 and Breach of Probation rose from 23 to 33. “The reason I am talking about that, you are aware we had an officer murdered just after Christmas… [with] discussion about how the courts are handling dangerous offenders and bail violations.” He spoke to the difficulty of keeping persons in custody when the numbers are difficult to manage, especially during COVID when people were being continually remanded, and when people “are constantly re-offending and back into the community with no consequences, there is a higher incidence of recidivism… You can’t keep people in custody unless there is a high level of public safety concern.”
Drugs and homelessness
Crisis response team launched
Bilingual Stop Signs not legal