People in Wellington County apparently believe everyone is honest – and that is why so many thieves the county OPP catch are from outside its boundaries.
Inspector Scott Smith came to Centre Wellington council’s committee of the whole on Monday afternoon and said the OPP’s Lock It or Lose It program is not working as well as it should here. Police encourage citizens to remove valuables from their vehicles and keep them out of sight, and to lock those vehicles.
“Many [thieves] we have caught come from the outside,” Smith told council. “They say ‘they [county residents] trust everybody and they lock up nothing.”
He likened that problem to a good fishing hole. When people hear about it, they all come to fish in it – until there is nothing left.
Smith said the residents’ trust goes even beyond automobiles and includes their homes. He has been driving around and what he saw caused him to ask officers to warn homeowners about open garage doors.
Smith explained garage doors are open and anyone can see the valuables in them, from snow blowers to chainsaws. He said it is little wonder a few days later, thieves strike. They have an inventory.
He cited one home where an officer knocked on a door to explain the problems created by open garage doors. There was no one home, and the car was not only parked in the garage, but it had the keys in it. Thieves could have loaded the vehicle and driven it away.
Smith said an open garage door might as well have a huge sign on it that states, “Come and steal from me.”
He was pleased to report violent crime is down in Centre Wellington. He said a decrease usually means fewer domestics and fewer dust ups at licenced establishments. He is pleased at the decrease because he said there are often domestic issues when the economy is poor, but that did not happen here.
“It’s nice to say they’re not fighting,” he said.
Councillor Bob Foster asked why there are so many fatal accidents in Wellington County.
Smith said there are a number of reasons. One is the county is the second largest OPP detachment in Ontario and the high population is another.
He said the county is “consistently near the top” of that statistic, and has been for the past ten years. There are over 15 traffic accident deaths per year in the county which, he said, is “quite significant.” He added that over two per year on average in Centre Wellington is “way too many.”
Smith said, “Translate it [traffic fatalities] into homicides and we’d have international attention.”
But, he added, “People see it as the price of driving.”
Councillor Walt Visser asked how many fatalities have alcohol as a factor, and Smith said 40%.
Foster asked if crashes occur during rush hours.
Smith said heavy traffic actually slows vehicles down. He said there are more fatal accidents during the middle of the day than at night, and they often occur on good roads.
He said many crashes are factors of speed. He explained most people figure they can handle higher speeds than the speed limit, and 99.9% of the time they are correct.
But when someone suddenly turns left right in front of them, they cannot stop and travelling over 80km/hour is more likely to result in a fatal crash than driving at that speed limit. He said accidents at 80 are “more survivable.”
Smith said impaired driving has decreased, but there are still “way too many” in Centre Wellington, with 40 arrests per year.
The total crime rate in Centre Wellington is “slightly higher” this year, but not as bad as the provincial rate. Smith concluded by stating police need the help and cooperation of all citizens to reach a lower crime rate.
He said simply calling police can be a big help, but he noted when there is a fracas on the street, some homeowners tend to ignore it. He said people can drive down Highway 401 and become furious when someone cuts them off, and can make all kinds of gestures at that driver, all the while having their licence plates exposed, which makes them easily identifiable.
But, he said, they will sit in the security of their homes and ignore what is happening on the street instead of calling police.
Smith said his 25-plus years in policing have taught him that the criminal justice system is no deterrent to crime, and that it takes the entire community working with the police to reduce it.
“We cannot do it by ourselves,” he said.