Throughout the summer hundreds of children in Fort Frances are going to be stopped by police and ticketed for their behaviour.
But the charges themselves are predominately aimed at rewarding youth for practising bicycle safety and doing good deeds.
McDonald's has again partnered with the Rainy River detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police to hand out “positive tickets” to well-behaved children, which can then be redeemed at McDonald's for a free ice cream cone.
“It just gives them an opportunity . . . to stop the kids and give them something that helps build that positive rapport with police officers,” noted OPP Const. Jim Davis.
The positive ticketing initiative, which kicked off June 13, has ran the past several summers and is aimed at building stronger connections between the community and OPP.
“What happened a few years ago is we saw the positive effects it was having," Const. Davis recalled. ”We get really positive feedback from parents and the kids who get the positive tickets alike.
“When the kids are getting rewarded for doing something good it just reinforces that positive behaviour,” he added.
As well, Const. Davis said the OPP officers really enjoy having a positive interaction with local youth who receive the tickets.
“I think in today's age with policing there's a lot of legislative changes, as an example with the Cannabis Act and some of the new impaired driving laws, there's just a lot of change happening and it makes it a dynamic job for sure,” he noted.
“Being assigned to do something that is largely positive within the community . . . From what I've seen, officers are really happy to do that.”
The OPP has already given out upwards of 60 positive tickets since the initiative launched and currently has 170 on hand that are ready to be distributed.
“There's no specific target, the resource is available there as long as the time frame is going and as long as we keep seeing that positive effect with it,” Const. Davis explained.
He said sometimes when giving out positive tickets other kids or their parents will ask what they're doing which provides an opportunity for the OPP to educate more people on the initiative, creating a “cascade effect.”
“We're engaging more and more members of the community in just regular conversation which is really beneficial to do our job obviously,” he explained.
It's important to remember the police offices who work in Fort Frances often call it home and want to see their community's interests protected, Const. Davis noted.
“Not that it's any less important for people that don't live in the same community . . . but you have a personal interest in ensuring that you have a safer community, so community mobilization and engagement is something a lot of officers take on as a part of their duties that is in some ways above and beyond just answering the calls,” he remarked.
“As officers we are really encouraged to do whatever we can, whether it's walk through the school or chat with a couple classes here and there, or engage with the OPP Kids program which is a replacement for what use to be the DARE program in the Grade 6 classes,” Const. Davis added.
Between calls, officers are encouraged to get out into the community and build relationships with town residents to help foster trust.
The positive ticketing initiative, meanwhile, was something the local Police Services Board (PSB) committee felt was very important to run again this year.
“The Police Services Board is really just a link to the community and one of the things that they were really interested in because of the summertime and because they see a lot of increased traffic was the bicycle safety,” Const. Davis remarked.
“We did really work with the PSB to make sure that we address the concerns they had in terms of youth and bicycle safety and the [positive ticketing] is one of the ways that we'll do it.”
The public is encouraged to engage officers while on patrol if they see a youth practicing safety or doing something positive and feel their behaviour should be reinforced with a positive ticket.
The initiative will run until Aug. 31.