Central Manitoulin voices concerns with policing increase

MINDEMOYA—Central Manitoulin council voiced its concerns with the significant increase in policing costs it is facing in 2016.

“There has been quite an increase in our policing costs,” stated Councillor Derek Stephens at a meeting last week. “We are looking at a significant increase in costs again this year.”

Councillor Pat MacDonald said at a recent Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) meeting, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) had provided information that noted there is a set rate formula in place, that takes in for instance, the number of occurrences an area has and on any and every property in a municipality. The municipality pays the cost of policing of a property even if it is vacant. There is a set rate the OPP follow, so that for instance if there is a break and enter on that property that is what the municipality pays.

“Billings township was upset because they have the high school within their township and we have a hospital within our community,” said Councillor MacDonald. “Any work that has to be carried out by the OPP involving either is billed to the municipality it is within.”

Councillor Stephens noted the cost of policing for Central has increased from $328,788 in 2011 to $514,514 in 2016. “This is a big increase over five years for our municipality. But this is one of the downloads that we can’t control. We have no say or control on this,” he said, adding that, “main reason for the police cost increase is wages.”

“What year was policing downloaded to municipalities?” inquired Councillor Dale Scott, to which council was told this took place in 2010.

“At the last CPAC (Community Police Advisory Committee) meeting it was explained that a lot of the difficulty is a social discipline problem,” said Councillor Scott. “The OPP is one of the only networks-agencies that is in operation 24/7 and when one of the other agencies is not open, police officers have to respond to incidents even, for example, if it includes someone with a mental health problem and not really a policing issue. “It’s actually the social issues that are driving the costs up.”

“When someone for example is severely depressed, and the OPP have to respond and they take the person to the hospital, the officers can’t leave until the person is evaluated. This can involve two officers being on duty and they can be there all night and all day, having to stay with this person until they have been evaluated,” said Councillor Scott.

“It is the changing nature of law enforcement,” said Councillor Alex Baran. “As for the costs based on all properties, including vacant ones, I don’t think an appeal on this process is going to help us much. Whether we could get an adjustment on the costs and talk to our MPP on this issue as municipalities is something that could be considered. 911 calls are not usually made about vacant properties.”

911 calls aren’t usually made  on vacant property, but they (OPP) are saying that crimes can be committed on these properties as well,” said Councillor MacDonald.

It was pointed out to council that 50 percent of Central Manitoulin’s vacant properties are in Carter Bay.

“Back in the day the OPP had in place the red sticker program to check cottages, they are no longer providing this service but we are still paying for it,” said Councillor Stephens. He added, “when the municipalities went after MPPs on the costs of policing it went nowhere. But we could certainly try again.”