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Melancthon Considering Enhanced Traffic Enforcement

Melancthon Council Considering Enhanced Traffic Enforcement

“One of the things that has been consistent through all the police services boards and councils is traffic,” said Inspector Terry Ward, Commander of the Dufferin Detachment of the OPP. “We know it’s increasing and COVID has made these highways even busier.”

On October 21, 2021, Melancthon councillors heard from Ontario Provincial Police representatives regarding the costing and implementation of adding an enhancement of one full-time constable to their contract. The stated purpose of adding extra policing in Melancthon would be to increase traffic enforcement as residents have long been bringing attention to speeders in the area, with particular concern for children and the Mennonite community. If agreed upon for 2022, the estimated cost for the first year would be $201,000. In subsequent years, it’s currently estimated to be $180,000, with annual adjustments to adjust for cost-of-living increases, additional equipment, etc. If Melancthon does add an enhancement, OPP representatives said it could take six to eight months to get the constable in place. Councillors have agreed to discuss the addition of enhancing their police services contract during upcoming budget proceedings.

“That’s a pretty big chunk of our budget,” said Melancthon’s Mayor Darren White, Warden of Dufferin County. “That being said, we recognize the importance of moving forward.”

The amount raised through taxation in Melancthon last year was approximately $2.15 million, with the budgeted amount for 2021 being about $2.8 million. The OPP has submitted to Melancthon that estimated policing costs billed to Melancthon for 2022, without any enhancements, are just under $420,000. Melancthon was billed just over $400,000 in 2021.

“To be perfectly honest, I’m wondering what we’re paying for,” said Councillor Margaret Mercer. “It would be really nice to know what we are paying the police to do in the community, because as councillors, we’d like to know where the emphasis needs to be, and I just don’t have a sense of that through any of the information we’re receiving.”

At the last meeting, Melancthon council received the 2022 annual billing statement outlining the current cost structure and the previous four years’ calls for service in the township. Inspector Terry Ward explained how it was the duty of Melancthon’s police services board to keep council up to date and that the information was all publicly available so that the community could understand what the OPP is dealing with in their municipality.

“It starts basically with each one of you understanding your contract,” said Inspector Ward. “That’s the responsibility for you to make sure that you understand what the contract is all about and how it works.”

Councillor Wayne Hannon asked about Melancthon’s police services board adjusting its three-year action plan to address speeding and complaints around lack of traffic enforcement coming from across the municipality. Earlier that meeting, Inspector Ward told of the sharp increase in ticketing in Melancthon from 2020 to 2021. He said that there were 250 tickets written in Melancthon in 2020. For 2021, as of September, there were 657.

“As far as our action plan goes, that is a priority,” said Inspector Ward. “I know the people are out there doing the education and the enforcement piece when it comes to traffic in Melancthon,”

The next day at a joint meeting of Dufferin County’s police services boards, Inspector Terry Ward expressed the importance of councillors understanding their contract with the OPP and policing activities in their municipalities.

“When I get cornered with questions by politicians that have never even seen the contract and don’t even know what their municipality pays for, yet they’re trying to go at me on stuff, that’s when I get my back up,” said Inspector Ward. “If you’re going to question policing, then let’s make sure we’re educated, and we know what we’re talking about.”

OPP Municipal Policing Specialist Simon Looker gave a brief explanation of how the billing model was generally split between base services and calls for service. Base services include legislated activities like crime prevention, routine patrols, RIDE programs, as well as training and administration. The cost of base services is determined by the number of properties in the municipality and the standard province-wide average cost per property. Looker said for 2022, the average cost across the province will be $172.07 per property. Calls for service represent municipal costs related to police services that are typically reactive and require the presence of a police officer. Municipalities pay a proportionate share of the total cost of municipal calls for service calculated for the province, based on weighted time standards applied to past calls for service. Melancthon’s billing statement for 2021 shows that the breakdown was $229,840 for base services and $150,369 for calls for service. The remainder of the billed costs are attributed to overtime, prisoner transportation, and cleaning services.

Mayor White inquired about splitting the additional constable between two bordering municipalities to share the cost. Looker explained how they are not currently certain if the Community Safety and Policing Act, expected to come into force in 2022, would allow for the splitting of enhancements between municipalities. Looker told how the OPP was still waiting for clarification from their legal services on those details. Moreover, Looker said it was possible under current legislation but indicated that it is not done regularly for several reasons, including that policing contracts are between one municipality and the OPP. It was also communicated that the OPP is looking for this to be a long-term placement for the constable, as it would involve reassigning the officer to another area if Melancthon decided to cancel the enhancement.

“Adding an enhancement for the town, and for the OPP, is a significant investment in time and resources,” said Looker. “They do want to ensure that is going to be something that is locked in for the longer term.”

Mayor White asked Inspector Ward to consider whether Dufferin’s eight municipalities should pool their resources to supplement the traffic enforcement unit recently formed by the Dufferin detachment. Dufferin OPP’s traffic enforcement unit currently consists of three officers and is dedicated solely to enforcing traffic laws. Ward highlighted the difference between what Melancthon is presently examining and Caledon, which now has twenty-seven enhancements, one of the largest in the province.

“We’re talking one, so do the math, right?” said Ward. “If you’re looking for a police officer to be running enforcement on every highway in Melancthon Township, I can tell you right now, it’s not going to happen. I don’t have the bodies, resources, and vehicles to do that.”

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