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There Has Been A 43% Increase In Addictions And Mental Health Calls Community Hears At Information Session On Crime

KAWARTHA LAKES-“They don’t build em like they used to” is the analogy Inspector Tom Hickey, Kawartha Lakes Police Service, used to describe the environment police officers face today.

Hickey made the comments at a community information session on crime in the community held at the Victoria Park Armoury in Lindsay on Thursday night.

Hickey explained his dad was a truck driver and when he first started working trucks were built differently

“My dad was a truck driver for almost 50 years, and he would say they don’t build em like they used to because if they did I would never be able to do what I do today,”  Hickey explained to the 250 people in attendance. “He drove trucks when you could work on them yourself and then he drove trucks when you needed a specialist to work on them. And that’s not unlike what we are going through today.”

Hickey says when he first started out as a police officer he could fix almost any problem he was presented with.

“But now we are faced with problems that require specialized attention and we are not always prepared, equipped or trained as police officers for dealing with it.”

The event was hosted by Kawartha Lakes Police Service with representatives from John Howard Society, Women’s Resources, Ross Memorial Hospital, The Crown Attorney’s office and more. It was in response to growing community concern regarding an increase in drug addiction, homelessness and property crimes in the Lindsay area.

Hickey said there has been a 43% increase in mental health calls in 2021 and a similar increase in addictions related calls. Officers have administered Naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose 14 times this year so far.

“What that means is the people who work with me are probably doing CPR at those calls and maybe even other calls,” Hickey said as he choked up. “I can count on one hand the number of times I have done CPR throughout my entire career. That takes its toll on everybody.”

It’s taking a toll on residents too.

“I don’t feel safe in my front yard.” said a resident who lives in the area. “I see a constant flow of traffic from 68 Lindsay Street North to 25 Mill Street which is a rooming house in a residential area. A constant flow of traffic back and forth with drugs. I don’t feel safe at my home when my husband is not home, I wear a car alarm on my belt and a knife in my pocket.”

68 Lindsay Street North is a “Housing First” initiative by the City. The building houses 24 one-bedroom apartments that are geared to income. The goal of the facility is to help people transition out of homelessness according to the City.

“Housing first does not work, there must be conditions around their stay there.” said one resident at the meeting.

Another resident asked about the impact the Central East Correctional Centre was having on the area crime rate. Police chief Mark Mitchell says he doesn’t feel the jail is having a huge impact.

Inspector Hickey says a lightbulb went off for him when he realized he was arresting the children of people he had arrested in the past.

“As a police officer, we get asked why do you want to be a police officer and many of us say want to help people,” explained Hickey. “About 7-8 years ago I came to the realization I hadn’t helped a lot of people. I had arrested a lot of people but I hadn’t helped them. I realized I was arresting the children of people I had previously arrested.”

Some residents asked why there is a constant catch and release of repeat offenders. Assistant Crown Attorney Kent Saliwonchyk explained there has been a de-emphasis on custody over the last couple of years.

“The Supreme Court of Canada released a decision about bail in 2017. The decision said the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause is an essential element of an enlightened criminal justice system. It entrances the effect of the presumption of innocence. That’s the message we got from the Supreme Court.”

Saliwonchyk also said in 2019 the criminal code was amended to put greater emphasis on the release of individuals at the time of arrest. 

Mayor Andy Letham told the crowd the City is providing funding for three new police officers over the next two years.

“Additional police offers are a natural thing when your community grows. When we talk about per housing cost for police, the per housing cost hasn’t gone up in ten years. You know that as the cost of policing goes up you know your police service is getting stretched more and more.” said Letham “So we are putting forward a proposal in the budget for extra officers. Not necessarily to go out and arrest more people but to be part of what we are talking about here tonight, to be proactive, to be part of the community task force, the group that tries to get ahead of some of the issues we are talking about.”

The meeting lasted just over two hours with the groups agreeing to meet again with the community. 

“I am well aware of your concerns,” said Chief Mitchell. “We are working on it, we don’t have all the answers.”

 

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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