Local OPP's stay-at-home enforcement favours education over tickets

·3 min read

Local OPP officers are approaching COVID-related stay-at-home enforcement with educate and caution before ticketing.

"When it comes to COVID-19, we have some people we deal with that don’t believe in it; they believe it’s a conspiracy," said Inspector Joseph Evans, talking to Midland Police Services Board (PSB) members this week.

"Our hardest task is to educate. That’s what we have to do most frequently. When that stops working, we caution. Our last ditch effort is to enforce the law.

"It’s an expensive ticket," he said. "And we’re dealing with people who are not working and they have families to feed."

This was in response to a question from David Denault, Midland's chief administrative officer.

"I know no one wants to write tickets for people on toboggan hills, that's certainly not the intent," he said. "Enforcement is important but what is the education level when you’re going out for patrols?"

Evans said as much as he pushes officers to enforce, they go the educate and caution route first before cutting a ticket.

"Let’s just say the education piece is 100 times more than any enforcement action," said Evans, who also talked about the difficulties in enforcing the stay-at-home orders.

"Unlike last year, there's significantly more travel, people are here snowmobiling," said Evans. "I've seen three New York State plates up here. I don't know how that's happening. They haven't given us any type of enforcement for that."

Member Judith Clapperton asked about the North Simcoe Crisis Management and Resource Team (CMART) and how that had been affected during COVID-19. The program, launched in July 2019, combines the expertise of mental health crises workers with police officers to provide an appropriate response to those going through a mental health crisis.

"We've added another officer and clinician to that," said Evans, talking about the collaboration between the Southern Georgian Bay and Wendat Community Programs in Midland. "The program is now six days a week. We're actually giving it more attention."

The only change, he said, is that officers are now wearing uniforms, instead of being in plain-clothes, because they have to attend other calls while they're out.

A 211 number is also being shared with people that need non-crisis help and need to be connected with support services.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn asked if a report on the program could be brought to the board.

Evans said that could be easily done at an upcoming meeting.

He also talked about crime stats and why the numbers were lower in most categories than 2019.

"Crime stats are directly related to COVID," Evans said. "People are at home, break and enters are down. Thefts of vehicles have increased because people are leaving their cars unlocked. Thefts from motor vehicles are down because people have more video cameras now."

The number of assaults for 2020 are at 118, which is slightly less than the 126 in 2019.

"You lock people up in a home for a long time and people argue," said Evans. "Sometimes it's just a verbal assault."

He then talked about a new location mobile app, What3Words.

The developer's website explains the app as a useful addition when street addresses are not accurate enough, and an instant, scalable solution where addresses do not exist.

Compared to current street addressing systems, 3-word addresses are far more accurate, as they refer to a specific 3m x 3m area. As the entire what3words grid is fixed, the 3-word address for a particular location will never change even if buildings or streets are redeveloped.

The 3-word addresses are unique, unlike street names which are often duplicated, and are easier to communicate and share with others.

Speaking to the efficacy of the app, Evans said, it's already helped saved three snowmobilers in the Orillia area.

"We would recommend people download it and use it if you're ever in an area you don't know how to locate," he added.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com