OPP Inspector says getting to root of problem is key in dealing with crime

Wellington County OPP Inspector Scott Smith advocates getting to the root of the problem when it comes to dealing with crime.

Smith told Minto council it is a year since he took over the inspector’s role.

He said Staff Sergeant Susan Gray primarily looks after the north end of the county which includes Minto, Well­ington North and Mapleton.

“She’s the ‘go to’ person and I rely on her heavily to keep me appraised of what is going on.”

Smith said, “Minto continues to account for about 9% of the calls,” which is relatively low.

The statistics have not fluctuated much since 2003.

“I am happy to report to you that there was a significant drop in violent crimes last year.

But over an eight-year perspective, he also noted a tremendous spike in 2008.

“When you see spikes like that, you always wonder why.”

He said 2008 was “a terrible year for domestic assaults.”

They appear to be down this year so far.

He added that in 2008, there were also issues around establishments where liquor is sold.

“There were a few fights and other issues … as a result of overindulgence of some of the patrons. I’m pleased to say that in the area of sexual assaults, Wellington County as a whole, and Minto specifically, experiences very few of them.”

Typically encounters, are those that tend to be directly involved within the family, Smith said.

“It’s certainly not stranger on stranger. It’s a safe place to walk, where you don’t worry about looking over your shoulder or getting dragged of the sidewalk into the bushes and sexually assaulted. That part is a positive thing, but the familial type of assaults which we dealt with are not. Gradually as society becomes more and more aware of it, we are seeing downturn.”

Smith said “Property crime is the number one criminal activity in Wellington County, by far.”

He cited marked increases in 2008 and 2009.

“I can tell you the trend seems to be continuing. There doesn’t seem to be any let up.”

Smith is reluctant to blame that on youth. “My experiences are 98% or more of the youth are great outstanding citizens of any community.”

He said there is a small percent  that cause an awful lot of grief.

Property crime has a tendency to go in cycles. “As some of the youth who are involved in such crimes grow up and get into their late 20s, property crimes tend to de­crease.”

He said those people are having their own children, “and miraculously 12 or 13 years lat­er the property crimes go back up.”

Currently, there are a couple of youth causing problems.

“We know who they are, and we deal with them.”

The intent is to limit the amount of property crime that can occur.

Smith said property crimes mainly include theft from motor vehicles – especially unlocked ones.

The other area is mischief through vandalism.

He said the number of collisions has dropped in the Town of Minto. He had anticipated a de­crease based on weather earlier this year, but there was actually an increase.

“On good roads, people drive faster … and the faster they drive, no matter how good the roads are, there tend to be more collisions.”

Smith said sometimes people wonder why police stop a lot of vehicles. “In order to reduce the number of collisions and the number of fatalities and personal injury collisions, we have to slow people down.”

Across Wellington County, the number of personal injury accidents was 50% of the previous year. In a map of fatal accidents across the county, Smith said locations in Minto were almost absent – with only two.

“Impaired driving is one of those statistics which I always refer to as a double edged sword.” He said if there are a lot of such incidents, it shows there is a problem.

“But lest anyone pat themselves on the back when they see a decrease, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem, it could means we have been less successful in catching them.”

He said the intent is to continue to have the names of those charged published.

However, ironically, that same day, Smith said someone was pulled over at 6:30am and blew over twice the legal limit and was driving in excess of 50km/hour over the speed limit.

“We’re always looking for community input and community solutions.”

Smith said each community in Wellington has its own issues. The south part has a significant migration of criminals from Kitchener, Guelph, Ac­ton, and Georgetown to commit crimes and then go home.

“In the north part of the county, it tends to be a little more home grown, although Minto has a number of people that traipse across from Huron, Grey, and Bruce Counties.”

Smith added “One of the major meth corridors in On­tario now exists from Mount Forest to Kincardine. As people are looking to find money to buy their their drugs, they have a tendency to move from their own homes and come into areas where they can poach and steal property from vehicles … anything they can get their hands on and is quickly disposable. It is absolutely important for us that people begin to lock their valuables.”

He drives through communities, often late at night and sees garage doors open with lights on inside.

“It legitimately is a neon sign that says – come steal from me. You can see everything that is in there.”

He said thing he is finding is that many communities are unaware that there are members within the detachment who are trained to do home audits for security.

“We are more than willing to do it … and there is no charge.”

Members of the Wellington County OPP?Auxiliary Unit are also trained to do residential  audits, “to make your home more secure.”

He suggested contacting Constable Pat Horrigan or Constable Mark Cloes.

He said he has been told over the years that crime is a policing issue.

“I’m here tonight to tell you it’s not a policing issue … it’s a community issue.”

He said if crime is to be reduced, “We need the entire community to look for solutions, and take a look at how we can prevent crime in the community. Obviously if we can prevent it, then we’re going to reduce it … and that’s a really good thing.

“We need to get to the roots of the problem.”