High milers, naming impaired drivers best known OPP programs

When it comes to public awareness of Wellington Coun­ty OPP programs, the Speeder of the Week leads the top ten. Police call such drivers “high milers.”

Not surprisingly, the OPP’s release of names of people charged with drunken driving is the second most familiar to residents in Wellington.

Both have been published in the Wellington Advertiser for many years.

The top ten programs was part of a policing survey the OPP undertakes every few years to determine where peo­ple see problems and where police can best direct their efforts.

A few years ago, break-and-enters were seen as a big problem, but, as Commander Steve Walsh has noted, those are now dropping.

The survey was done by contacting 267 county resi­dents, none of whom had a person working for the OPP living in the home. The results of the survey are accurate to within 5%, 90 times out of 100.

The top ten

The best known programs to citizens, with percent­ages, are:

– Speeder of the Week, 91.4%;

– press releases naming people charged with impaired driving, 81.6%;

– the high school liaison officer, 71.2%;

– community services offi­cers Keith Robb and Mark Cloes, 70.3%;

– canine officer Constable Barry Reid and Riker, 64%;

– mounted patrol with Bosko and Jasper, 58.4%;

– Traffic Management Unit headed by Sergeant Rick Weil­er, 55.4%;

– volunteer auxiliary offi­cers, 52.4%;

– Street Crimes Unit, 47.3%; and

– the annual report for the Police Services Board, 36.8%.

In other parts of the survey, respondents stated they feel safe in their community, and that there is little problem with community security.

Citizens were also asked six questions about their satis­faction with the way the OPP investigates crimes and en­forc­es the law. In all cases, people were satisfied with the results.

Those questions dealt with:

– enforcing aggressive driv­ing;

– enforcing drunken driving;

– charging for property crimes;

– charging for violent crime;

– sensitivity to victims of violent crime; and

– response times to violent crimes.

In all cases but one, there was no statistical difference from the 2003 survey. The one dif­f­erence was that re­spondents felt police better enforced drunken driving laws in 2003.

In his report to the county Police Services Board, In­spec­tor Steve Walsh noted a num­ber of crime and traffic trends. Those included:

– occurrences relating to domestic disturbances are in­creasing, and while the number of assaults has decreased, the number of occurrences involv­ing threats of bodily harm or death have increased. Walsh noted that trend might result in more domestic assault charges as the cycle of violence in domestics escalates;

– break and enters are down, consistent with provincial and national trends;

– criminal drinking and driving offenses have increased year over year, and have caught the attention of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the media; and

– the roads of Wellington County continue to feed the larger centres with workers and, combined with increased population, the result is more traffic. Those volumes and the associated impatience, which contributed to more aggressive driving, is having a negative im­pact on the number of per­sonal injuries and fatal colli­sions.

Walsh added that other trends include more occurrences with people experiencing men­tal health issues. He said the major impact is providing sec­urity in local hospitals while the person is awaiting admis­sion to a psychiatric facility for assessment.

Walsh noted that the passing of racing legislation in the Highway Traffic Act has provided police with an additional tool to remove a threat from public roads.

He noted that police are anticipating that changes to the Highway Traffic Act this year will result in changes to the licence suspensions of motor­ists found driving with a blood to alcohol concentration of .05 and above. He said that, as a result, the enforcement and track­ing of people who drive while under suspension will be be vital in the coming years.

Walsh noted that changes in technology and policies have resulted in the audio and visual recording of drivers arrested for drinking and driving related offences – in the OPP’s Rockwood office. He said the ability to tape that in other OPP offices is not yet available, but police will be tracking the impact the technology has on the conviction rate.

County councillor Lynda White, the county’s liaison to the Police Services Board, told county council on March 27 that the survey is available for them to read. She said, “Over­all, people are satisfied with policing in Wellington County, but there is always room for improvement.”