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Norfolk seeks consensus on bylaw enforcement

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Norfolk County and Norfolk OPP want to get on the same page when it comes to bylaw enforcement.

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To that end, Norfolk’s Police Service Board held a special meeting on Nov. 4 to discuss the matter, with a particular emphasis on noise and parking complaints.

Norfolk council and members of the public expect the OPP to respond to acute bylaw complaints such as noisy parties, blocked driveways and menacing wildlife. Problem is, the OPP’s obligations in this area are not spelled out in the county’s contract with the provincial force.

“We want to clarify that,” Dennis Travale, chair of Norfolk’s police services board, said at the meeting. “Once we clarify what bylaws Norfolk wants enforced, that will be added to the contract as a codicil or attachment.”

If that was happen, after-hours calls to the OPP regarding barking dogs, illegal parking, and the like would register as “a call for service,” Travale said.

“A ‘call for service’ is about $200,” Travale said. “Is that the best decision to make? Is it a good use of an officer’s time and training? It may be. We will see.”

Travale suggested the efficient solution may involve Norfolk re-visiting its collective agreements with an eye to extending bylaw enforcement beyond business hours during the work week.

Mayor Kristal Chopp said the matter is under review and will likely be addressed when the current union contract with CUPE is up for renewal.

Meanwhile, the consensus on the police services board favours an OPP response to bylaw complaints. Members noted the need seems most acute after hours and on weekends.

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“When I think of government, I think nine-to-five,” George Santos, vice chair of the PSB, said. “When I think of policing, I think 24-7.”

Internet searches done by Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus during the Nov. 4 meeting turned up several examples of OPP responding to bylaw complaints elsewhere in Ontario.

For his part, Travale has canvassed officials in other municipalities served by the OPP. He reported there is an expectation in these communities as well that the provincial force will respond to bylaw complaints.

Travale advised that the question of OPP involvement is nuanced.

When police enforce provincial and federal statutes, charges and citations are a frequent result. Conversely, the objective of bylaw enforcement, Travale said, is compliance based on notices and warnings.

As well, OPP prioritize calls based on urgency. During peak periods, Travale said bylaw complaints may be deferred depending on what officers are contending with in the field.

Travale also noted that police are much more expensive than bylaw officers. If warnings and notices don’t work and police escalate to charges, Travale said there is the additional cost of officers needing time to testify in court where cases are contested.

The concerns shared last Wednesday were to be discussed with the Norfolk OPP at a second special meeting on Nov. 9. At that meeting, Insp. Joe Varga, head of the Norfolk detachment, and support staff were to discuss the nuts-and-bolts of a formal role for the Norfolk OPP in the enforcement of county bylaws.

“The discussion may raise issues that require amendments to bylaws,” Travale said.

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