Cobourg Police Service Protects and Enriches the Community

In City Hall, Police Blotter

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Enriching the community as well as keeping it safe, the work of the Cobourg Police Service in 2022 was the focus of a presentation to council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday.

Chief Paul VandeGraaf led off with a by-the numbers chart. The 11,287 calls for service, for example, were up 4.5% from the year before.

“That’s dispatched calls for service,” VandeGraaf said – “it’s probably double that in the non-registered interactions they have on a routine basis.”

They’ve had a 15% increase in calls specifically associated with mental health crises. They have responded to 255 motor-vehicle collisions and 44 break-and-enters (38 of them residential), and 89 suspected drug poisonings (four of them fatal).

“That does not include the fire services or paramedics – that’s 59 cases where our officers responded first and administered Naloxone,” the chief added.

The force consists of 118 staff members, 35% of whom are sworn members and the remainder civilians. The department’s $9,348,283 budget included a 2.8% levy increase, with 28.9% of the amount taken care of by recoveries, grants and transfers.

There’s a downward trend in use-of-force incidents, with no such recourse required in more than 99% of recorded interactions.

Body-worn cameras had an aggressive roll-out that year, VandeGraaf said, completed within six months for all front-line officers and special constables.

“Our membership have adopted this new technology with zero resistance,” he said proudly – “all funded through the revenue from corporate services and not through tax revenue.”

Their volunteer corps gave the equivalent (in terms of hours ) of two full-time paid staff over the year, and one of their initiatives was the monthly Cram-A-Cruiser events for Fare Share Northumberland Food Banks. In 2022, they collected 23,360 lb. of food and $23,632 in donations for Fare Share.

The Cobourg Police Service solves more than 3/4 of all offences reported, and are proud of their collaborative work with Cornerstone Family Violence Prevention Centre.

“We know our team make it approachable for victims of sexual violence to report that without fear of judgment and the understanding that it’s a victim-centred approach, and will only proceed to court when it’s right for them,” the chief said.

It was a year when police seized drugs with an estimated street value of more than $131,00, plus more than $12,000 in Canadian currency and a loaded firearms. Among the drugs was 138.78 grams of fentanyl that could potentially have fueled more than 2,200 lethal doses. There were also 153.03 grams of crystal meth, 433.62 grams of cocaine and 88.86 grams of crack cocaine.

Their V13 Policetech Accelerator program celebrates and enables innovation, like their role in the Facial Recognition Technology Research Partnership (in collaboration with Ontario Tech University and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association). And their Pitch To The Chief events tap the talents of local young people as well as professionals.

When it comes to that portion of the population that accounts for their calls, he said, “we are dealing with 3% of the population.

“Overall, our town is very safe – look at the amount of interactions, the low rate of violent crime,” VandeGraaf said.

And outreach will continue to be important, he added, citing their active role in this year’s Northumberland United Way Stuff The Bus campaign.

United Way had fallen short of their goal of 1,200 backpacks in the 2022 campaign, and appealed to the police to help make this year a success with their initiative of providing backpacks stuffed with school supplies for children whose parents might have found such an expense too much of a challenge.

The campaign was launched a few weeks ago, and the bus was considered stuffed by Aug. 8.

“But it’s still not too late to reach out to Northumberland United Way or Staples and find out how you can get a backpack,” he said.

“If we can fix the literacy rate, if we can get kids to stay in school, we will fix crime. We need to make them successful and, for some, that’s having a backpack on Day One and not feeling like an outsider.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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