Security system eyed for sportsfields, high school

Fort Frances OPP has applied for an enforcement grant from the Youth Crime and Violence Initiative of Ontario to acquire funds for a surveillance system to curb crime at the St. Francis Sportsfields and Fort High school grounds.
While far from a done deal, local community services officers Cst. Al MacDonald and Cst. Dereck McLean have been working to get partners, such as the town, FFHS, and St. Francis in support of the initiative, which would include lighting and surveillance cameras to deter and catch any criminal acts.
“It’s really about community partnership. We’ll all benefit from it,” Cst. MacDonald noted.
“I think it’s a really neat idea. It’s very, very hi-tech,” he added. “Criminal activity at night is hard to monitor in that area. With this, we can always watch the tapes later.”
Cst. MacDonald noted the lighting also would benefit sports such as soccer or baseball that may go into the late evening.
And the need for such system is definitely there.
“Over the past five years, we have experienced escalating vandalism to our property and the surrounding area,” Community Services manager George Bell said in a letter of support recently sent to OPP headquarters in Orillia.
“[The property] is off the main traffic area and thus an ideal location for youth and teens to congregate,” he wrote. “On several occasions, they have vandalized the washroom facility, set fire to the washrooms, located a hideaway in the roof of the washrooms for the purposes of smoking and drinking by ripping off the overhang, broken the parking lot railing, destroyed every picnic table, et cetera.”
The costs of these repairs have exceeded $20,000.
“And given the nature of the facility, an outdoor sports venue with very little to vandalize, this amount is, in my opinion, excessive,” noted Bell.
“The damage all costs the taxpayers money directly,” stressed Cst. MacDonald.
The cost of the surveillance system would range around $20,000, which is a manageable amount if both the grant comes through and community partners pitch in, Cst. MacDonald said.

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