Clearance rate down for Penetanguishene policing in 2022

Regional and municipal crime statistics for 2022 were shared at a recent Penetanguishene council meeting, with members of council looking to further separate stats and narrow down town-only specifics.

Staff sergeant Natalie Majer of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment provided an annual report presentation for the town, but pointed out that the Penetanguishene-only specifics included numbers from the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, and not the Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC).

Clearance rates were down in Penetanguishene for violent crime from 54.6% in 2021 to 53.8%, down for property crime from 13.8% in 2021 to 11.8%, but up for drug crime from 62.5% in 2021 to 100% last year.

“I would like to see this cleared off a little better,” said Majer. “A number of our investigations are still fluid and ongoing; and it’s also imperative that our officers – when they are clearing off calls and if they do end up charging someone – that they go back to that occurrence and clear it off as such that they have been cleared with charges.”

In comparison, clearance rates for the Southern Georgian Bay region as a whole were: violent crime increased from 44.4% to 55.5%, property crime increased from 13.4% to 18.8%, and drug crime stayed relatively the same from 50% to 47.2% in 2022.

Penetanguishene police answered 3,661 calls for service in 2022 compared to 3,497 the year prior.

“There’s been a significant decrease in break and enters, and theft of motor vehicles,” said Majer. “A slight uptick in mischief; false alarms have gone up, and 911 calls have gone down – those could be related to pocket dials.”

Collisions were also presented as both regional and local statistics. One fatality occurred in Penetanguishene during 2022, as well as four accidents causing personal injuries and 52 instances of property damage; the numbers were roughly the same as those from 2021.

Regionally, seven fatalities and 61 personal injuries were comparable to the year prior, but an increase in property damage from 504 in 2021 to 613 in 2022 was noticeable. Overall, deaths were higher throughout the pandemic years while injuries and damage was lower.

Regarding the big four items, a 59% increase of seatbelt charges were laid regionally for 2022, while speeding was down by 21%, distracted driving down by 78.4%, and impaired down by 10.2%.

There were 1,524 arrests across Southern Georgian Bay, up 6.9% from the year prior. Traffic stops were slightly lower and patrol hours were slightly higher. Noticeably, court hours had increased from 1,581 hours in 2021 to 2,018 hours last year for a 27.6% increase.

The marine unit responded to 182 calls for service on regional waterways last year, with five operators charged for impaired operation and six operators served with suspensions. For snow vehicles, there were 80 calls for service in 2021 through nearly 260 patrol hours.

“We did have two fatalities on sleds last year,” Majer stated. “In order for this program to work, we need to have weather and trail conditions in an appropriate way; as we can see, currently this winter has not been very successful for the program due to the lack of snow because it has been so warm.

"But we do get out when we can; we have to ensure that the officers are safe, and educate other sled enthusiasts out there.”

Majer also informed council of upcoming in-car automated license plate recognition technology for fleet vehicles and a look to replace some of the aging fleet, the implementation of OPP detachment boards across the 13 member municipalities, and a detachment action plan for 2023 to 2025 as part of the OPP organization strategic plan.

Council members had their opportunity to respond to the report, with Deputy Mayor Dan La Rose asking if further separation of statistics could be done to pull the CNCC amounts for municipal purposes.

Majer replied that quarterly reports for calls for service to the facility get sent to the Municipal Policing Bureau.

“I am aware that the assistant deputy minister within our ministry is wanting those analytics as well,” said Majer. “I’ll have to get back to you on what can be shared.”

Coun. George Vadeboncoeur asked about OPP involvement with municipal law enforcement as per short-term rental bylaws.

Majer said that discussions regarding a partnership with bylaw officers to deal with the matter had begun as of fall of last year.

Mayor Doug Rawson thanked Majer and all OPP for their hard effort and dedication, usually to little acknowledgement or appreciation. He also raised a point which he hoped residents would hear.

“A lot of times, members of the public make comments about speeding on roads; activities that they’re not really appreciating,” said Rawson. “I think it’s incumbent on every member of the public – if something happens that you want to be investigated, you have to report it.

"You can’t come to myself or any member of council two weeks later and ask us to look into it. The police need to be notified, and we’re asking the public to do that.

After reiterating the OPP contact number (888) 310-1122, Rawson noted that increased calls could alert police to a heightened activity, which could prompt a targeted patrol… but only if residents do their part to report incidents.

“I could not have answered that any better,” said Majer. “We’re all recruiters, so when you’re finished being mayor you can come and work with us,” she added to the laughter of council and the gallery.

Recruitment is one of several challenges facing the OPP, with positions wanted for uniformed front-line roles as well as auxiliary staff. Majer was eager to spread the word for council and the public.

“If you know anyone that would like an opportunity in this fantastic job – I am in my 29th year – come see us and we can certainly direct you in how to apply. Police services across Canada right now are experiencing some challenges in staffing, and I am pleased to say that this (Southern Georgian Bay) detachment is in the top three for front-line availability for our police staffing,” said Majer

The 2022 Southern Georgian Bay OPP annual report can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca