WN Police Board meeting highlights
The Project Safe Trade is active in West Nipissing. The West Nipissing Police Services Board (WNPSB) held one of its quarterly meetings at the Nipissing West OPP detachment in Cache Bay on Wednesday, September 13, and Safe Trade was up front on the agenda.
A parking space in front of the detachment is marked as a “community safe zone” to facilitate property transactions from online buy and sell sites. While newly appointed Detachment Commander Insp. Megan Moriarity noted that the location isn’t monitored by camera, it is situated near the entrance to the detachment, deterring unlawful behaviour.
In a press release provided by Constable Robert Lewis, Media Relations, it was noted “Online classified and auction sites are often used as tools to sell stolen property to unknowing victims”, and these municipally established sites are “about moving online marketplace transactions away from secluded lots or private residences and bringing them to public places”.
According to Insp. Moriarity, this newly established location has already seen good use. She adds that the reason it isn’t actively monitored is precisely to obtain high usage, “That’s part of the whole program, that people feel free to use it whenever they like. They don’t have to book with us and it’s more appealing that way… We’ve had some good feedback from some of the people that have stopped.”
The WNPSB established this Safe Trade Zone to protect vulnerable persons from potential exploitation. “While police do not mediate private transactions… should one of the parties request an officer, one will respond.” There is a Safe Trade checklist with recommendations, which include meeting in a busy and public place, inspecting the product in person, bringing a trusted friend/family member as witness, keeping transactions to daylight hours, not inviting a stranger into your home (it allows them to access the layout of your house), and never giving your schedule to a stranger. It is also suggested that people do not erase emails, texts or voicemails between themselves and the seller/buyer, keep things local, and do not give out personal banking information. WNPSB Chair Dan Gagné says of the location, “It’s a neutral site for everyone. Perfect!”
New Detachment Commander, board function
This WNPSB meeting was also the first for Inspector Megan Moriarity, formerly the Espanola Detachment Commander, as well as new board member, Campbell Anderson. The status of the WNPSB and its board composition were officially approved by the Ministry of the Solicitor General on September 13th as one of two police boards for the region. The status of all police boards was under review as the province finalizes the Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019 (CSPA) to come into force in early 2024. Because of its geographical size and character, West Nipissing will maintain its own board, and the other board will be comprised of French River, Killarney, Markstay-Warren, St. Charles and Atikameksheng Anishnawbek F.N. combined.
Statistics and trends
The September 13th meeting was Insp. Moriarity’s first opportunity to go over local policing statistics with the board. Because of their sensitivity, the statistics as presented are not available to the public until received officially by municipal council.
“Thefts continue to be prevalent in this area. Having said that, we’ve been working with our Community Safety Officers and working on the “Lock it or lose it” program in the area, to remind people [to] lock their cars. A lot of the thefts are that of convenience or opportunity,” said Moriarity.
“We’ve been trying to remind the public to secure your items, put them out of sight… Quite often it’s been demonstrated that thefts are related to some of our illicit drug activities and so we’ve also been doing some work on that with our Community Street Crime Unit this past month. We have recovered so much stolen property I’m running out of room! (…) There’s some very large items – everything from plows to saws to you name it. Now we’re trying to track down who owns all of it and go through all the reports. There should be some further press releases coming and I’m really pleased on that.”
Over the coverage period, 202 items were reported stolen and over 96 have been recovered. Unclaimed items will likely eventually go to auction or be transferred to the insurance companies who provided payouts. “There are different procedures for different items. Obviously, the firearms go for destruction… The other items, depending on what they are, can go for auction (…).”
Also of note was an increase in sexual assaults reported. Moriarity said, “It’s been my experience that that’s not a bad thing, that that is more education being put out there and people being more comfortable coming to the police to report things. And so, in a way, I’m happy to see that people are reporting those. Often, you’ll see the national average doesn’t generally change, but the reporting does, and so when I see that, I’m pleased that our officers are doing their job and are making people feel comfortable enough to come and see them. Having said that, we’re also working on increasing our victim assistance (…) to support those who need it.”
There were far fewer incidents of criminal harassment, while thefts under $5,000 have increased slightly.
There has been an increase in drug-related occurrences, however Moriarity believes there is progress on that front. “We have our Community Safety Officer in the schools doing our best to educate our youth on the use of illicit drugs and even just the abuse of any drugs that are legal.” Having a mental health professional working with a dedicated officer has also proven advantageous. “If they have repeat clients, they’re following up with them prior to them getting into crisis. And so, you’ll eventually start to see decreases in some of our violent crimes, et cetera, that are associated with some of the mental health issues that we’ve had in the past…. The other part of their job, though, is also following up with those people when they’re not in crisis… They’ll arrange to visit them or meet them and make sure that they’re getting the services that they need to try and help prevent them from getting to a crisis level. We’ve seen a lot of good success with that.”