At the October 30 Hawkesbury council meeting, Inspector Franca Campisi presented the Hawkesbury OPP Detachment’s 2017-2019 plan. The detachment wants to lower the number of impaired drivers, work closely with the community to tackle mental health issues and lower theft incidents. The Hawkesbury detachment serves the following municipalities: Hawkesbury, Alfred-Plantagenet, Champlain, East Hawkesbury and parts of The Nation Municipality.

In 2016-2017, the Hawkesbury General Hospital and District and its mental health and addiction team along with the Canadian Mental Health Association came up with a program for people with mental health or addiction issues facing possible jail-time for minor offences. The Hawkesbury OPP can now give the option to an offender to enter the program instead of charging him or her with an offence.

“The association created protocols, so instead of going into residences all the time we can offer the person a chance to enter the program. This frees the courts and it has been quite successful. Traditional police work meant that we would answer calls, charge and we would just be knocking on the same door the next day; that method is just a never-ending circle, we need to start getting people the help they really need,” said Campisi.

Campisi also mentioned the creation of situational tables where multiple associations and organizations across Prescott-Russell along with the OPP sit together to discuss the various available services to people coping with addiction or mental health problems. The first situational table is to be held on November 22. It is hoped that from this, more tools will be created to aid the OPP in helping offenders to seek help.

“I’m very confident that these situational tables will give us more tools to answer the needs of the community,” said Campisi.

Impaired driving and theft

According to Campisi, there are way too many incidents involving impaired driving in Hawkesbury and the OPP are putting this item in their priorities for 2017-2019 plan. They believe that the only way to lower the numbers of incidents is through education and the media. Roadside checks will also be more prevalent to ensure that roads in their district are rid of impaired drivers.

The other major issue that Campisi mentioned in her presentation was the number of thefts. Last summer, the OPP started doing focused patrols in areas known to have multiple theft incidents. These patrols, with the use of new technology, proved successful and 101 charges of mischief were laid. These focused patrols will be an integral part of the 2017-2019 plan.

911 calls

Back in 2012, the Hawkesbury OPP received 4500 calls 911 calls, which is huge compared to the size of the community served, police say. These calls include urgent and non-urgent situations. The good news is that in the past four years, 911 calls have been closer to 3500 or 4000, but according to the OPP, these numbers are still way too high. Approximately 500 calls per year are being made by people who hang up before giving any information. These calls are still investigated by police officers which means less patrols and less resources available.

On top of the uncompleted 911 calls there are 12 to 13 per cent of calls that are dialed mistakenly by individuals. Again, all of these calls need to be investigated. The OPP Hawkesbury Detachment is asking the public to be careful with their mobile phones so as to not pocket-dial 911 and the detachment is reminding children to call 911 only for emergencies.