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OPP Inspector visits LV council

Sarah Hyatt


OPP Inspector Jeff Smith is following through with his promises to meet with local communities to determine specific needs and issues, and his most recent stop included Laurentian Valley during the township's regular council meeting.

Smith formally introduced himself Tuesday, saying he wanted to help with any concerns or questions in regards to recent changes with detachments and services, or the new OPP billing model as well as talked potential cost savings with the township through community mobilization.

After much back and forth took place between the inspector and council, councillors were pleased to hear about several new pieces of information.

Councillor George Hodgkinson, for instance, had concerns with the new demand on staff at the Upper Ottawa Valley Detachment-Pembroke and how it might affect Laurentian Valley in regards to the number of officers and hours billed - Smith replied, there would be no significant impact and that currently, the detachment has 28 front-line officers who will be rotating throughout the communities.

Smith assured councillors once the new OPP building is built in Pembroke, costs will also remain relatively the same.

However, there will be some changes in regards to costs for the township if the new OPP billing model is introduced Jan. 1, 2015, Smith confirmed Tuesday.

The newly proposed OPP model scheduled to take effect in 2015, which has caused a bit of an uproar across rural Ontario is estimated by the OPP at an average per household cost of about $369. The new methodology behind the proposed formula would charge each municipality with a contract a flat $260 fee for base policing costs, plus a variable charge for each call for service. Therefore, depending on the number of calls within Laurentian Valley this could impact the township, Smith explained. The township doesn't have a contract with the OPP but would pay for calls for service, if the new billing model is adopted.

But according to Smith, this is where community mobilization may come in handy and help municipalities save - in other words, the OPP is looking to improve and enhance its partnerships with community organizations such as the Children's Aid Society (CAS), mental health organizations and hospitals, to name a few.

What's happening, the inspector explained, "across the province people are saying 'we don't know who to call - so they call the police.'"

Meanwhile, all too often people are calling for the police for matters which officers cannot actually fix, Smith went on to say. For instance, people who are repeatedly calling for mental health concerns, while officers can go and intervene - they're never actually fixing the problem, Smith continued.

In more recent years, the number of incidents police are called too which they actually shouldn't be handling has been an ongoing, growing concern, the inspector said.

Therefore, the plan is for the OPP to continue to identify partnerships which need to be strengthened and work towards that goal. The OPP are hopeful to continue working with each municipality to identify primary concerns and issues.

Smith also announced during this time the OPP has applied for a grant to have a full-time mental health worker at the detachment - which would prove immensely helpful, Smith added. With the addition of a mental health worker and the strengthening of community relations, issues can be dealt with and costs cut hopefully, Smith said. Although the inspector admitted it's difficult to predict cost savings for calls per service, the OPP is hopeful through the new community mobilization initiative some costs can be saved.

Sarah Hyatt is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist.

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