County council hears of struggles starting safe communities committees

Residents here have not exactly been rushing to support the county’s safe communities committee initiative.

“The apathy is both overwhelming and under whelming in some of the communities,” OPP Inspector Scott Smith told county councillors on April 26.

The county has applied to become a designated safe community and is now awaiting for approval. The board received a letter at its April 11 meeting that stated the county is welcome to join, but must meet the criteria.

President of Safe Communities Canada Paul Kell expects “that the process for preparing for designation will be energizing and productive for everyone involved, and that Wellington County will experience positive results from the exercise almost immediately.”

Smith said the World Health Organization designates safe communities through its Canadian arm in Canada.

He explained that it goes beyond criminal activity to focus on health and well being for all people in the county.

But, he said, it seems people are unconcerned about such things as falls or accidents until it happens to them. That gets their attention but otherwise, they have little interest.

“I’m having a hard time getting people to understand crime is not a police issue per se – it is a community issue,” Smith said. “The community has to work with us.”

He said with the reluctance he has seen, “I’m not sure where this committee is going.”

White told council she believes the safe community issue is “a really important issue for the community.”

She said Puslinch has a committee that is active and so does Minto. Centre Wellington Township, on the other hand, “is having a problem getting going.”

Some positive feedback

Councillor Lou Maieron told council he appreciates Smith’s monthly reports on crime around the county.  He said the town is working on a community oriented policing committee or a safe communities committee, and he promised to work on it.

Maieron cited vandalism in the town, and said it is a community matter as well as a policing program.

Councillor Dennis Lever told council his COPs committee had some issues with the idea of a safe communities committee.

He said when Smith came to the township to explain the program, it was much better received and the COPs members “were reassured. It appears … to be an excellent program.”

Lever concluded, “I encourage the other communities to have Inspector Smith come and do a presentation.”