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Impaired driving charges down again here

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With recent headlines from Winnipeg and elsewhere in Canada indicating impaired driving charges are on the rise, A/Insp. Steve Shouldice of the Rainy River District OPP detachment told town council at last week’s meeting that numbers here are slightly down compared to last year.

In Fort Frances, the OPP laid a total of 26 impaired driving charges in 2008. This is down from 33 in 2007, which, in turn, decreased from 34 charges in 2006.

While Fort Frances was identified as 12th among the top 20 of Ontario’s 523 postal areas for the most licence suspensions for impaired driving in 2007, according to an Toronto Star article published in November, A/Insp. Shouldice noted the ranking (which is done a per capita basis) could be attributed partially to the focus and level of enforcement here.

“Some of this is due to us re-addressing our priorities, which are impaired driving, aggressive driving, and seatbelt compliance,” he told council Monday night.

“We’re out there doing more RIDE [checks], stopping more vehicles. That could result in the number of charges,” he explained.

“To me, statistics can mean a lot of things, but if there’s an increase in charges, it could be because enforcement has been more focused or ramped up to target those problems,” A/Insp. Shouldice added in an interview the following day.

“Beginning in ’06, we established two full-time traffic officers for the district. If you segregate two people from your manpower just to go after speeders and impaired drivers, your charges are probably going to go up,” he reasoned.

In that same Toronto Star article, Kenora was ranked 17th while Sioux Lookout was number one.

A/Insp. Shouldice also delivered to council a year-end police services activity report for 2008, as well as numbers for the fourth quarter of the year.

The OPP saw a total of 4,155 actual occurrences reported in 2008, which is comparable to previous years.

There were no murders this past year, 10 sexual assaults (the same number as last year), and five robberies (up two from last year).

Assaults were down from 141 in 2007 to 125 in 2008. Break-and-enters were up from 63 to 75, but still much lower than 130 in 2006.

There were six automobile thefts, no thefts over $5,000, and 129 occurrences of theft under $5,000, which was down from 168 in 2007 and 201 in 2006.

There were 111 mischief occurrences, as well as a total of 46 drug-related occurrences­­­­—up from last year’s 31.

The violent crime clearance rate was 90.1 percent while the property crime clearance rate was 29.9 percent. That compares to 73.9 percent for the drug crime clearance rate.

There was a total of 448 Criminal Code charges, 638 Highway Traffic Act charges (up from 450 in 2007 and 510 in 2006), and 55 drug charges (up from 48 in 2007 and 19 in 2006).

There was a total of 116 Liquor Licence Act charges—only half of the number in 2006.

There were 22 charges under the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act.

There were 218 motor vehicle collisions in 2008, including 196 involving property damage and 22 involving personal injury, but no fatalities.

The OPP checked 33,547 vehicles during the district-wide RIDE program in 2008, conducted 135 roadside screening tests, issued 36 12-hour suspensions, five administrative licence suspensions, and charged 17 impaired drivers.

There were no substantiated public complaints in 2008.

Within Fort Frances, OPP officers worked a total of 34,217.5 hours in 2008. Of those, 12,941 were for Criminal Code occurrences, 2,899 were for traffic occurrences, and 7,647.75 were spent on patrol (while the hours of service contract with the Town of Fort Frances is for 29,000 hours, the extra hours worked are not at cost to the community).

Looking more specifically at the fourth quarter of 2008, the OPP got a total of 1,055 calls for service—an increase of about 10 percent over the fourth quarter of 2007.

These included 35 violent crimes, 79 property crimes, 13 drug crimes, two impaired drivers, 75 motor vehicle collisions, and one public complaint.

There were 84 Criminal Code charges laid, down from 120 in the same period in 2007. Drug charges were down from 22 in 2007 to 12 in 2008.

Highway Traffic Act charges were up significantly from 112 to 174 while Liquor Licence Act charges were down dramatically from 46 in the final quarter in of 2007 to 14 in the final quarter of 2008.

There were seven miscellaneous charges under provincial statutes, five parking tickets, and three charges under municipal bylaws.

Total revenue collected in the fourth quarter was $2,994.19—about the same as last year.

Total hours of service for fourth quarter were 8,294.25 hours, with 607.25 overtime hours.

In October, the detachment saw two officers—Csts. Rob Lewis and Kevin Hicks—transfer after each completing six years here.

In their place, the force has welcomed Csts. Jim Schultz and Jeff Verney.

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