Wellington County OPP officials are launching a new initiative in a bid to prevent home and business break-ins, says Inspector Scott Lawson.
He discussed the program with about 40 people attending the mayor’s breakfast hosted by Wellington North’s Ray Tout on Feb. 21 at the Arthur community centre.
The OPP are in the process of putting together a victim response program known as Safeguard Ontario. The program is designed to address steps residents and business owners can take to prevent break-ins and thefts.
Lawson said the OPP dealt with 518 mischief calls, 266 break-ins and 824 thefts last year. More recently, OPP officers have been canvassing businesses in Mount Forest to talk about a rash of recent break-ins and thefts that in that community.
Lawson said police have been chasing down leads and hope to be narrowing the search for the perpetrators.
“This becomes a real problem,” the inspector said, adding potential break-ins and thefts can be reduced if homeowners and business owners, “take that extra minute to lock your home, car, businesses and driving shed.”
Lawson was named Wellington OPP Commander in September after 26 years of police experience, including an eight-year tour as a constable at the Mount Forest detachment.
The Safeguard program is similar to one operating in Caledon and Lawson said police there are assisting in the training of eight to 10 Wellington OPP auxiliary officers.
Using auxiliary officers will give the program greater flexibility in that officers can meet with victims at mutually suitable times to discuss ways to prevent future break-ins and thefts. It also leaves frontline officers to conduct regular duties, Lawson added.
The auxiliary officers will inspecting premises and the home or business owners will later receive a report from police about steps that can be taken.
“If we could take three per cent of that (break-ins and thefts) and reduce it we’d be ahead of the game,” Lawson said. “It’s just a crime of opportunity; quick and dirty, in and out, and they’re gone.”
During the breakfast, the inspector presented Tout with a plaque commemorating OPP Constable Rick Hopkins, who gave his life in the line of duty responding to a call in Arthur in 1982.
The constable was honoured at a ceremony in Mount Forest in October, during which a structure on Highway 6 was renamed Cst. Rick Hopkins Memorial Bridge.
Tout noted the plaque will be prominently displayed to honour the officer.
“We will certainly hang this in our municipal office as a reminder of what can happen even in a small community and hopefully won’t happen again,” the mayor said.
The inspector also raised concerns about the number of “911 hang-ups” received by the OPP, a large portion of which are inadvertently dialed by cell phone users.
“That’s a significant drain for us,” Lawson said. “That’s a real emerging challenge.”
He suggested cell phone users lock their key pads.