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Council to try again with COPs committee

by David Meyer

ELORA - Centre Wellington council will ask its community oriented policing (COPs) committee to reconsider getting involved in a Road Watch program after hearing from a delegation from Puslinch Township.

Puslinch councillor Susan Fielding, along with Sandra Soloman and Dave Haley, came to Centre Wellington’s committee of the whole on Oct. 17 to present the program details. They were joined by OPP Sergeant Jack Hunjan.

Haley explained the program began in Caledon in the 1990s when some youths were killed in a bad crash, and citizens decided that it would take more than increased traffic enforcement to end some road problems.

Road Watch is a venue for citizens to report aggressive and dangerous driving to police.

Haley said the program grew from Caledon and started in Puslinch, with the OPP hoping to make it county wide. The group has forms it provides citizens for making reports.

“Our job is to provide a vehicle for people to report aggressive and dangerous driving,” he said. He said forms are available at the township office and the library in their community, and the OPP picks up what is dropped off.

Puslinch provided $3,500 for the group to get started, and it did not even have to spend $1,200 of that to get running. That includes the cost of signs that are posted along roads with a history of problem drivers.

Haley said the group consulted with its public works superintendent and police on where to post the signs. On county roads, it obtained county approval.

It also provides a brochure and Haley explained the group accepted only three main sponsors so they could receive a large credit on it.

The group has now become national, and any material new groups create needs the approval of Road Watch Canada and the OPP. He said the big question is how to distribute the brochures to everyone at the lowest cost.

He suggested when the program is ready, an official launch be held at a local event such as a fall fair. In Puslinch helium filled balloons were particularly popular with children at the launch.

Hunjan said the Puslinch program has been running since last year. He served in Caledon for 11 years and the program launched there in 1995 flourished. To date in Wellington County, police are receiving an average of two complaints a month.

Hunjan said it is important people registering a complaint have a driver’s licence to include. Police can then send the miscreant a letter, and after a couple of those, they can pay the driver a visit to talk about aggressive or dangerous driving. He said without a licence plate number, a complaint is difficult to follow up.

He added, though, even posting Road Watch signs has a beneficial effect. “It does slow people down,” he said.

Caledon now takes submissions online that are proving useful. One person there is designated to get those emails and pick up the complaints so police can send letters.

“If we see repetition, we’ll go down to that person’s place,” Hunjan said. “If you have a licence plate, we’re in business.”

Councillor Kelly Linton wondered what is the use of a report without a licence plate number.

Hunjan admitted even one digit wrong makes the complaint impossible to act on.

Linton also wondered about delays. Reports could be days old and the aggressive driver could have already had an accident.

Hunjan agreed there is a time lag between the offence and police acting on a report.

Linton also noted some things should be reported directly and immediately to police – such as someone passing a stopped school bus.

Hunjan agreed, and said it is difficult to determine if someone is speeding. He said he would have difficulty judging the speed of a vehicle, but dangerous and aggressive driving is another matter and that should be reported.

Councillor Kirk McElwain said speeding is a complaint reported most often.

Hunjan said if it is someone consistently doing it, the OPP could send a letter.

Councillor Fred Morris noted there was someone at council from Milburn Crescent who is willing to volunteer for a Road Watch committee. There have been numerous complaints from residents on that Fergus street. Morris wanted to know the cost of the Road Watch kits.

Haley said the group makes its own and that keeps costs down.

Morris asked if the OPP is willing to commit to the program.

Hunjan said it is, and there is a sergeant already available for Centre Wellington.

Councillor Walt Visser told the delegation, “It’s my job to be negative.”

He said there are already facilities to report driving problems to the OPP and this would become just one more committee of council. Further, he said, there is a cost and he does not like the idea of looking at the OPP budgets of the future and seeing $20,000 or more for an officer to work on the program – particularly if civilian help is also an expense for the program on that budget.

“I have a problem with you budgeting … with two complaints a month,” Visser said.

Councillor Mary Lloyd said she sits on the COPs committee and has not heard  anything about Road Watch. She had missed one meeting. That committee, in the summer, rejected getting involved with Road Watch because it had already set its priorities and focus for the year before Road Watch made its presentation. It felt it had all it could handle on that volunteer committee.

Lloyd said she is willing to take the issue back to COPs, which is meeting this Friday.

Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said she thinks it is “worthwhile to go back” with the program to see if the committee can be convinced to get involved.

Morris said, “It’s not just about Milburn. There’s also Colborne Street in Elora. We have to look at the safety of all our community.”

Ross-Zuj asked Hunjan if he sees the program being successful, and he said he does.

“I do see the value of it. I wish the complaints are higher than two,” he said.

McElwain noted, “I’m getting a lot of complaints about speeding. Haley said the group has done surveys and speeding has dropped with the program.

Council left the issue to go back to the COPs committee.

 

October 21, 2011

 
 

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