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OPP reports significant jump in charges in Oro-Medonte

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

(Postmedia Network)

(Postmedia Network)

Impaired-driving charges in Oro-Medonte have nearly doubled so far in 2017.

The most recent stats available, to the end of May, see 46 impaired-driving and over-80 charges laid in the township by Barrie OPP, compared to 24 in the same time span for 2016.

It's a concern for Staff Sgt. Michael Burton, Barrie OPP commander. Why the numbers are as high as they are, he couldn't say, but he praised the role his officers play in taking drunk drivers off the roads.

“I'm proud of the fact that our officers have shown a consistent dedication toward enforcement of impaired-driving legislation; I think that's played a role,” Burton said. “I do find it concerning, regardless of the cause of the increase of those numbers, that we still have that number of impaired drivers out there.”

He couldn't say there were more people attempting to drive drunk, as those are figures he didn't have. However, he's not alone in feeling proactive policing is a key factor in the increase in charges.

“It's not necessarily on the increase as much as the stats show,” said Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes. “It may simply be the OPP are doing an even better job of detecting these.”

In general, the charges are being laid throughout the township, not just on the highway, where the bulk of traffic in the area is found.

Because the problem can be as widespread as the township itself, it can add challenges to serving the greater community some other detachments don't face. That's partially where the township can lend a hand.

“(It's) really more of symptom of a cause as opposed to being the actual problem,” Hughes said. “Very often, there are people who are suffering from some kind of mental-health problem, those kinds of things, and use alcohol as a solution.”

For mayor and council, that means giving municipal support to social service organizations that seek to help those in the community in overcoming those issues.

“When you see somebody impaired at nine o'clock in the morning, that's not something you would expect as part of a daily routine,” Hughes said.

Also a concern for Burton is the increase in some types of property crime. Most notably, instances of theft under $5,000 rose by 130% in the first six months of 2017. Those would include minor crimes such as thefts from vehicles.

“When we have that large of an increase, there's obviously victims out there,” Burton said. “We have to be tuned into that. We are very aware of that number and we're currently developing strategies to try and address that number and bring those numbers back down to where they should be.”

Despite those increases, overall violations were down about 19% until the end of May. That includes a significant drop in Highway Traffic Act violations, though Burton warned that number could fluctuate thanks to a minor reporting lag in the program that compiles the data for OPP.

“As an organization, as a detachment, we are using the data that's available to us ... to help us deploy our resources to do the right thing and be at the right place at the right time,” Burton said. “That's probably been a factor in helping us produce some of these decreases.”

All told, Hughes was happy with the report presented to council. The township is getting its money's worth from the police service — but it's still a lot of money.

“We've never had a problem with the quality of service with the OPP,” Hughes said. “The OPP is like anybody else — they get legislation added to them that adds costs, and the only place they have to go for that is the property owners ... It's all being downloaded to the taxpayer.” 

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