By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
What kind of reception did Northumberland County councillors get at ROMA when they brought up concerns about traffic enforcement on Highway 401?
In a word – cool.
The news came at Tuesday’s Finance and Audit standing committee, as they accepted correspondence from the Northumberland OPP detachment for information.
Inspector Jeff Martin wrote in response to an enquiry from the county about “why charge numbers arising from enforcement activities directly related to public safety in Northumberland County remain significantly lower than pre-COVID emergency levels.”
The inspector’s letter detailed a reliance on high visibility, education and targeted enforcement.
“The OPP does not issue tickets or carry out enforcement as a revenue-generating activity, but rather to ensure and maintain public safety,” he said.
In that connection, Warden Mandy Martin invited Deputy Warden Brian Ostrander to provide an update of how the county’s concerns were received at the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference.
“I would say we received a cool reception with regards to this point from the Attorney General, I think, with the concerns we brought forward with dedicated policing on the 401,” Ostrander replied.
Martin explained that delegates to the conference who have concerns can get an audience with the appropriate minister and officials in that department. Northumberland went to ROMA with a number of issues, and this was a two-pronged one – lower revenues coming in from POA enforcement of things like tickets and fines (such revenue being required to offset costs of POA court that were downloaded to the municipality) and the way driver behaviour deteriorates into the danger zone when the threat of enforcement is not apparent.
“This is an issue we have been monitoring for a while, and there has been a staff report previously,” she said.
Ticket revenue understandably declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers never rebounded compared to numbers from neighbouring jurisdictions.
On top of that, they continued to receive complaints and hear anecdotal information that seemed to indicate escalating numbers of accidents and road closures on the 401.
The letter before the committee Tuesday is a response to their communicating their concerns to the detachment, Martin said.
With the safety of Northumberland residents on the roads and the need for funds to offset POA court costs, Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore added, “we would really like to see enhanced enforcement on this stretch of the 401.
“When there isn’t enforcement, we believe that leads to a public-safety concern,” Moore said.
“Driver safety does change if there is no repercussion for bad behaviour. Speeds creep up, and other unsafe behaviour seems to happen when they are very well aware there isn’t any enforcement happening in the area.”