Local OPP tells Tay council grandparent, romance scams a concern

·6 min read

First-quarter statistics for regional and municipal crimes in 2023 were shared at a recent Tay Township committee of the whole meeting following a presentation by the Southern Georgian Bay OPP.

Staff Sergeant Natalie Majer of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment handled the first part of the presentation, which gave an overview of several events occurring during the first three months of the year, including statistics regarding fraud prevention.

“We have investigated several frauds; 56 actually in the first quarter,” said Majer. “We’ve noticed a very sudden surge of seniors being targeted related to grandparent and romance scams.

“Just in one week alone we had received 13 reports in relation to those frauds.”

Majer added that community engagement through seminars and other education was being offered to residents.

SGB OPP Insp. Tim Tatchell provided the police services board report for the township, and also put forward a strong message to the community regarding the scams.

“Where we’ve seen some of our increases is in our theft over and slightly in fraud,” said Tatchell. “There’s a lot of work being done in the background but they are challenging.

“I encourage each of you when you’re talking to family and friends, to remind them that we will not call someone asking for bail money.” He added, “Specifically when we get into gift cards to seek the release of one of their loved ones – that won’t happen.”

Tatchell asked that residents remain vigilant to those occurrences, asking for anyone with questions to contact the OPP directly.

Specific to Tay Township, violent crime was down by 26.3% in comparing Q1 of 2023 from Q1 of 2022, property crime was up 26.1% and drug crime had been halved to 50% over the three-month period.

Clearance rates for overall crime were down by 9.5% from the year prior; individually, drug crime doubled to 100% clearance, violent crime clearance increased by 1.1%, property crime saw a decline of 3.6% clearance and unrelated to those three featured a 16.7% decrease in clearance rates.

However, Tatchell reminded council members, “clearance rates are very cyclical” and used the example where a reported vehicle entrance crime could be resolved at a later date to explain that delay in clearance rate timing.

Across the SGB OPP detachment area, there were a total of 612 traffic charges laid in the first quarter, with the majority being 486 as per the Highway Traffic Act. Also in the area, there were 300 traffic charges laid for ‘the big four’ of speeding (297), seatbelt (0), impaired (1) and distracted (2).

Tatchell noted that a new traffic strategy was prepared for the region and the detachment in anticipation of a busy summer. He also pointed out that all cruisers in the detachment were equipped with automated licence plate recognition (ALPR) technology, which also had an unintended obstacle caused by law-abiding citizens.

“(ALPR) allows us to determine people that are driving suspended in our community,” said Tatchell. “Our officers can sit at choke points or high-traffic areas, and that’s where we can look for stolen automobiles, vehicles that are travelling without insurance, and vehicles where the owner of the vehicle is suspended.

“The biggest challenge and one of the reasons why there’s been a lot of push in the media for validation tags on your plates is because it does register if someone goes by with an expired VAL tag,” Tatchell explained. “When the messaging was put out that they removed the fees for VAL tags, they forgot to remind the people that they still had to renew the VAL tags.

“It does set off this reader quite frequently, and obviously we want to wade through that to get the suspended drivers and the drivers with no insurance, which is our priority.”

Across the detachment area, motor vehicle collision incidents were mostly the same as the year prior with the exception of just one fatality compared to three in Q1 of 2022; a motorized snowmobile collision where inattentive driving was a contributing factor. In Tay Township, there were 23 instances of property damage, one personal injury, and zero fatalities for motor vehicle collisions.

One public complaint regarding conduct was reported as ongoing in the township. There were 437 cruiser-patrol hours in Q1 of 2023, 31 foot-patrol hours and two school-related patrol hours.

Calls for service were down to 300 hours for violent crime, up to 211 hours for property crime, up to 68 hours for other criminal code violations excluding traffic, up to 21 hours for drug possession but reduced to zero hours for drug trafficking. Traffic billed 70 hours, various operational activity included 623 hours as well as 43 hours for false or accidental instances.

Regarding 116 of billed hours to the township, Tatchell spoke to slight increases in mental health act calls for service or threat of suicide.

“Luckily, we have the advantage here in Southern Georgian Bay,” said Tatchell, “(of having) a very robust mobile crisis response team – our CMART team (Crisis Management and Resource Team) – in partnership with Wendat which responds to all these calls for service; that way we’re putting people in crisis in contact with the appropriate resources in the community that require it, to assist them while they’re in crisis.

“We’ve seen a slight increase in those mental health act calls. Part of that may have previously been called something else; now they’re truly being identified for what they are; a mental health call. That allows us to make sure we’re sending the right resources to those calls for service.”

Within the OPP presentation, Majer also explained that around the region: a Safer Internet Day was held at Sainte-Croix Elementary School in Lafontaine; OPP attended the Huronia Special Olympics pickleball tournament in January; and that the rescue of a deer in Midland had reached nearly 8 million views on social media.

Mayor Ted Walker thanked Majer and Tatchell for the presentation as well as their event presences in the public eye.

“I want to say how nice it is to see the OPP out at these various events,” said Walker. “I think the community really appreciates not only your participation but the fact that you’re there, the visibility.”

The Southern Georgian Bay OPP 2023 Q1 report can be found in the committee of the whole agenda on the Tay Township website.

Tay council meets for committee of the whole meetings every second Wednesday of the month, and regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Archives and livestreams of council meetings are available through the Tay Township YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca