Cobourg Police Services Board addresses letters concerning safety in downtown Cobourg.
At Tuesday, March 21, 2023 Cobourg Police Services Board meeting at Venture 13 a number of letters of concern regarding safety were spoken discussed.
Board member Nicole Beatty said she has walks downtown regularly during the evening and at no time has ever felt unsafe.
Cobourg Police Chief Paul VandeGraaf stated that there is a difference between unsafe and unnerving.
VandeGraaf reiterated the statistics for the last three years relating to the letters.
Assault, assault cause bodily harm, sexual assault and robberies are all decreasing.
“Those are the things that should really get people to feel unsafe.”
Break and enter, mischief, arson, suspicious person, are also decreasing.
“However when we get into those suspicious persons, disturb the peace, drug poisoning, unwanted persons and people who call for somebody whose encountering mental health there is a substantial increase.”
In 2022 calls for service for the Cobourg Police Service went up 5% from the previous year.
But 16% of the 11,287 calls for service were “non-core police functions” and dealt with suspicious persons, disturb the peace, drug poisoning, unwanted persons and people who call for somebody whose encountering mental health there is a substantial increase.
“Sixteen percent of the calls for service for our entire police service, most of which are in the downtown core are calls that are poverty based – homelessness.”
In 2022 there were 11,287 calls for service.
· 387 were wellbeing checks
· 277 Mental Health calls
· 960 Suspicious person calls
· 208 Disturb the peace
· 5 suspected drug poisoning fatalities
VandeGraaf said he sympathizes with people who feel unsafe.
The service does have foot patrols downtown regularly as time permits.
“At the end of the day, dealing with people who are suffering a mental health crisis or a addiction is not easy.”
A letter was also written to the Police Services Board concerning an arrest at a church function at Trinity United Church where officers swooped in to make an arrest.
VandeGraaf stated the individual was wanted on warrants.
The individual was given three opportunities to turn themselves in and neglected to do so.
“The forth opportunity our officers fulfilled their obligation under the Police Services Act and executed an arrest.”
“There was no ambush – this was not a planned attack.”
“I don’t believe to her letter that it did anything to diminish our collaborative, community approach in addressing the challenges of homelessness.”
March 3, 2023
Cobourg Police Service Board Chair
Dear Dean Pepper:
I am writing to you as a concerned Cobourg citizen and downtown business owner to inform you of some of the ongoing activities that are occurring downtown.
I am the owner of the Northumberland Dental Hygiene Clinic located at 21-2 King St. West. My office is located beside the Dutch Oven and behind Audrey’s and the Hearing Center. I have
been in business for the last 15 years, 8 of which have been at this location. My office is down the laneway called First Street which runs from King Street through to Albert Street.
I, along with many, many other Cobourg citizens, am concerned about the increasing issues we are having with the unsheltered people.
We had someone living under the back stairs of the office last summer.
They had set up an encampment under there. The stairs face the parking lot where people who are attending our clinic park their cars. Our clients were worried about their cars being broken into while they attended the clinic.
We have also had two recent occurrences of the unsheltered using IV drugs right beside our door leading into our clinic.
There is an alcove beside the back entrance of the Hearing Center and they go in there to use their drugs.
We have had to call the non-emergency number for the police and they once removed a person from the premises and in the second case, because the person had already left by the time they arrived, took a description, realized they knew who it was, and told us that they would find them and tell them not to use our place as an injection site moving forward.
People arriving at my clinic should not have to witness this!
They also do not feel safe coming into the clinic when the person is beside the door in case said person should decide to enter the premises in a heightened state.
There is also loud shouting occurring at all hours of the day and evening.
We have installed bright lights in the back for people to feel safer when arriving or leaving the clinic when it is dark.
I have a client who also owns a downtown business and she now closes earlier in the winter months when it gets dark earlier so she doesn’t have to walk to her car in the dark.
I have seen an increasing number of unsheltered people which I’m sure you are aware of which loiter downtown.
In most cases, they are harmless. They sometimes stop me and ask for money.
We have a large population of elderly people living in Cobourg and many of them do not feel safe coming downtown at all.
We want people to attend our downtown to shop and come to appointments but with safety an issue, many are choosing not to.
It is certainly a sad state of affairs right now.
Thank you for reading this and I would love to be able to discuss this with you further.
Mary Ito RDH
To the Cobourg Police Department and Police Services Board ,
I have become aware of an arrest made by your officers last evening that is of concern to me.
The incident occurred after a community meeting at Trinity Church. The meeting that was carefully planned as an opportunity for citizens, housed or unhoused, healthy or addicted ,
advantaged or disadvantaged to work together to support one another and find solutions.
I can’t think of a more positive effort for change and growth as a compassionate community than an evening like that.
I understand that there was a legal reason for the arrest, my concern is the timing and location.
According to the mandates outlined in last May’s Provincial funding announcement regarding homelessness and addiction resources, the first priority of that funding is:
• Strengthen collaborative community approaches in addressing challenges facing the community.
In a collaborative environment, all stakeholders are consulted and trust is a fundamental principle. In this case, rather than collaborate with the generous parties involved in planning the event, the Cobourg Police Department chose to use that carefully planned event to ambush this person for arrest.
All trust that had been established over time between this person who is clearly struggling and the various people willing to offer support to help end the cycle of harm , was likely shattered
in that moment.
Will other events and offers of support by this group be seen as opportunities for the Cobourg Police to swoop in? Other vulnerable folks will certainly have concerns that they will.
Police officers have their duties to perform but surely not at the expense of the important and potentially life saving efforts of their community partners.