Wellington County OPP Inspector Scott Smith believes one death is too many in Wellington County.
He was talking about traffic fatalities at Wellington North recently to show the crime trends within the municipality.
Smith has been doing the rounds of municipalities focussing on local priorities.
He said calls for service in Wellington North over the past nine years have averaged about 15%, which makes it the second busiest municipality, behind only Centre Wellington.
At the same time, there have been significant peaks and valleys in terms of the number of calls. “It’s one of the most mountainous charts for any one municipality … and quite honestly, I can’t explain it.”
While violent crime has gone up since 2001, Smith said some of that is due to an increase in domestic violence.
“Wellington North is not immune to it. The other part … for whatever reason, Wellington North has a number of less-than-desirable number young people.”
He said that is the age of “young people” in their 20s, moving into Mount Forest and Arthur. “They’ve engaged themselves in a lot of activity that is criminal. They fight among themselves, so we get the assault complaints from them. You’ve got one group in Arthur that has identified itself as a gang, by name. We’re a little concerned about that.”
He added, “We know who the players are, so we’re keeping an eye on them.”
Property crime in 2009 was a bit lower than 2001, but the most common are thefts under $1,000, vandalism and mischief, and break and enters.
He noted traffic accidents in Wellington North continue to decline.
“It’s a great statistic to see.”
However, “We still have way too many.”
He said many people may not realize that over that past five years, Wellington County has averaged 15 fatal motor vehicle collisions.
“If those were reported homicides, we’d get international attention for them. Unfortunately today in Ontario, we see road deaths as just a part of doing business. I find that appalling.”
Smith said, “One [death] is too many in Wellington County.”
He said “in Wellington North, it averages to one person a year who dies on the highways.”
But, Smith said, the township is safer than some locations – such as Guelph-Eramosa Township, which averages three deaths per year.
“Still, it makes this area the worst detachment area covered by the OPP?for motor vehicle collisions. It gives you a real idea why we need to be out there. We will continue to do everything we can to try to save lives,” he said.
Smith added that police cannot do much of what they do without the community’s help. He’s has told other municipalities, too, that one of the biggest things people can do to help the police is to lock their homes and vehicles.
“We’d like to be able to say we live in a day where we do not have to lock up our vehicles.”
He said people are now walking up and down the street to see if vehicles are unlocked.
He added Neighbourhood Watches are important, whether it is a formal program or even just watching out for one’s neighbours, without having to be asked to.
The concern is that people don’t want to get involved.
“They don’t call us, and don’t call Crime Stoppers. There’s a lot of things people could do to assist us, but they don’t,” he said. “I really encourage people to start looking after their own neighbourhoods, because we can’t be there all the time.”
His next point was about local solutions to local problems. He noted the startup of the COPs (community oriented policing) committee in Arthur this year, and said he would like to see one start in Mount Forest.
“At the end of the day, crime will be prevented … If we can increase the effort … The harder it is for a potential offender to commit the crime, the less likely it is that he will commit it.”
Further, Smith said, crime can be prevented if there is an increased chance of being caught. He said that is not just about increased police presence, but residents keeping watch and either yelling out the door or calling police if they see something happening.
It also means proper lights on streets, houses.
The third aspect, he said, is reducing the rewards for committing the crime.
A car is less likely to be broken into if there is nothing to steal, he said. “If there is no reward, they won’t do the crime.”