Traffic charges way up last year

FORT FRANCES—Fort Frances OPP detachment commander S/Sgt. Hugh Dennis told town council Monday night that police have been very busy here in 2004, with increases in the number of charges in most enforcement areas.
“There was certainly an increase in Highway Traffic Act enforcement in 2004,” noted S/Sgt. Dennis. “This can be attributed to the detachment being at full strength, and the heightened enforcement levels in the area of public safety.”
The number of Highway Safety Act charges jumped from 508 in 2003 to 773 last year—a difference 265.
“Our response to traffic complaints has resulted in more directed patrols and, therefore, more charges,” said S/Sgt Dennis, adding the OPP will alter its patrol routes according to reported traffic concerns from the public.
He also said traffic enforcement likely will be a key area in 2005 as police continue to charge motorists with aggressive driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seatbelt, among numerous other offences.
“Hopefully, those numbers will go down this year,” he remarked.
Overall, police were called to 4,191 in 2004, up from 4,056 in 2003.
There were 324 Criminal Code charges laid in 2004, compared to 272 in 2003, and 310 charges under the Liquor Licence Act last, well up from 249 in 2003.
Charges under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act dropped from 31 to 20 between 2003 and 2004. But drug-related charges jumped from 18 in 2003 to 24 last year.
A total of 235 parking tickets were handed out in 2004 while only 145 were issued in 2003. Fifty-one of those last year were given out in December, and were related to calendar parking for snow removal.
There also was an increase in guard hours at the Fort Frances Jail, meaning there were more prisoners—and more hours spent guarding those being transported to Kenora.
S/Sgt. Dennis noted the number of hours the OPP is contracted to work by the town was exceeded by 1,800 hours, for a total of 31,957 hours. Last year, the total hours were just under 31,000.
On the other hand, overtime hours decreased from 2,110 in 2003 to 1,634 last year.
S/Sgt. Dennis noted officers showing “good management skills and working their best during the service hours they’re scheduled to work has been a great factor in this reduction in overtime.”
As well, the OPP brought in $11,569 in revenue for the town, via traffic accident reports, background checks for employment purposes, and other administrative duties.
This is down slightly from the 2003 revenue total of $12,155.
S/Sgt. Dennis also noted the OPP continued to have an extensive community presence in 2004 thanks to the D.A.R.E. program in both elementary and secondary schools and an anti-bullying program in full swing, among many other initiatives.
“I want to assure council and the members of this community [that] the police are working very, very hard on every investigation we have coming our way, whether it be domestic violence, or whether it be robberies, or whether it be drug enforcement, or whatever the case is,” he stressed.
“I, unfortunately, can’t discuss in an open forum, or otherwise frankly, the manner in which we do our business, whether it be an investigation into a sexual assault or a series of break-ins,” S/Sgt. Dennis concluded.
But he added he will share with the town in the future clearance statistics regarding violent and property crime investigations.