Following a year that saw a record number of reportable incidents and operating at minimal staffing levels, the city’s police chief is undertaking an innovative approach to maintaining the overall safety of St. Thomas residents.
That means putting more COP’s on the street.
Although, that’s not what you think and, no, the police budget is not going to absorb a beating.
The COP’s, in this case, are Citizens on Patrol.
The program – to be launched later this spring – is modelled after an existing undertaking in Brantford which provides “a visible presence in the community while fostering partnerships with Brantford Police Services, local businesses and residential areas, to identify and expand opportunities to deter criminal activity and reduce crime,” according to the service website.
The COP volunteers – more than 100 now in the program – act as goodwill ambassadors who “foster positive contact with members of the community. COP’s will act as non-confrontational observers and report suspicious behaviour.”
The police service website stresses the volunteers will not be asked to be involved in the apprehension of those committing a crime and “their mission is to be non-intrusive, trained civilian eyes and ears of the Brantford Police Service.”
In a conversation this week with St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge, he explained “It’s like more eyes and ears out there. It’s like Neighbourhood Watch on wheels and foot patrol.
“They’re going to be patrolling where the people are at community events and downtown.”
Herridge concedes there are issues in the downtown core and based on feedback from the Downtown Development Board, a greater police presence is needed.
Once the COP program is up and running, should the volunteers hear or see something, they will notify police who will respond accordingly.
They will normally operate in teams of three, advises Herridge, with two on the street and another volunteer working out of home to monitor phone calls and transfer any information over to police.
“They are very independent,” says Herridge, “and they are going to have their own website, work with us and find out what the priorities are.”
Insp. Hank Zehr will oversee the COP volunteers who will undergo training on an ongoing basis and wear identifiable clothing.
The hope is for an initial intake of 25 volunteers, notes Herridge, who would like to deploy them at all hours of the day or night.
“If we have thefts occurring in a certain area, and they are available to supplement our police presence and could go out at three in the morning, that’s kind of the direction we would like to go.
“It just enhances what I have been saying for the past several months that policing is truly a community partnership.”
“I think if the public is aware that we have some extra eyes and ears out there, maybe that will help curtail some of the crime.”
Herridge notes the call for volunteers will not likely begin until March.
“There are a number of things we need to get into place with regard to policy and equipment. Once we get the foundation finalized, we’ll start sending out applications for people to apply.”
Applicants will undergo a police background check and the initiative is ideal for those enrolled in a policing program at school or retired individuals with time to spare.
According to Herridge, the number of incidents reported this year is already more than a hundred ahead of last year’s comparable figure so the timing of the COP program couldn’t be better.
“We can’t be everywhere at once,” stresses Herridge, “and I think if the public is aware that we have some extra eyes and ears out there, maybe that will help curtail some of the crime.
“I think the summer is going to be a good kick off and I’m very confident there’s going to be benefits for our community.”
NO TRACTION ON THIS ONE
Although no court dates have been set to deal with the civil matter involving former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers and the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre,
we do know one of her allegations may be a non-starter.
Last July, Riddell-Laemers initiated legal action against the centre alleging, among other things, she was sexually assaulted by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service who was on the centre’s board of directors at the time.
The St. Thomas Police Service called in the Chatham-Kent Police Service to conduct an investigation and they recently submitted a report which concluded the investigator was not able “to formulate reasonable grounds necessary to proceed with an arrest and subsequent charges.”
Furthermore, the crown attorney recommended not proceeding with any charge “as he did not have proof beyond a reasonable doubt and no prospect for a conviction.”
And, from the onset, “the complainant did not wish the matter to proceed criminally.”
Does that support the decision of the centre’s board of directors not to act on Riddell-Laemers’ assault claim?
STILL IN THE WINDING DOWN PROCESS
Last October we revealed the city was named in a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
The City of St. Thomas, Ascent Renewables, Ascent Group Inc, Ascent Energy Services and a numbered company, 2154310 Ontario Inc., are being sued for general damages in the amount of $7,850,000 by a numbered company, 1787868, operating as Focus Group based in London.
By way of summary, in 2010 the city entered into an agreement with Jeffery Lang, president and CEO of both 1787868 Ontario Inc., and Terra Vox, whereby it would acquire 51% of the shares of the latter for $239,000, plus an agreement to provide further funding to Terra Vox by way of shareholder loans totalling $200,000.
Just two years later, the senior management of St. Thomas Holding Inc. (STHI) – which was to become part of Ascent Group Inc. – advised Lang they would not recommend any further cash investment in Terra Vox, now known as Ascent Renewables.
At the end of April, STHI management made the decision to place Ascent Renewables in “a dormant state.”
Lang alleged “the senior management team of Ascent was attempting to shield their investment record from the shareholder, the City of St. Thomas, and the taxpayers of St. Thomas.
He continued, “The decision to shut down Ascent Renewables Inc. (Terra Vox) was done with a view to protecting the reputations of the senior management team and not in the best interests of Ascent Renewables (Terra Vox) or its minority shareholder, the plaintiff, 1787868 Ontario Inc.,” which estimates it has sustained losses in excess of $4 million.
Fast forwarding, after Lang initiated legal action last year, the city approached him seeking an extension to file a statement of defence.
It now appears the city, through its legal counsel, is set to do just that meaning this renewables run-in is heading to the courts.
If that is the case, perhaps we might get answers to some outstanding questions.
If Ascent Renewables is no longer conducting business, why does it issue yearly financial statements?
Perhaps this note at the end of the 2017 statement sheds light on the status of the operation.
“These financial statements have not been prepared on a going concern basis. Management is aware of the material uncertainties related to events or conditions that may cast significant doubt upon the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. The Corporation has not had any operations since 2012 and has no assets. Management and the board of directors are working to wind down the corporation.”
As of the end of 2017, Ascent Renewables had, in total, an almost $600,000 balance payable to the city and Lang ($200,000).
And, Ascent Renewables still schedules shareholder meetings including one in February of last year where the board was reduced to a pair of directors from the previous three.
The board now consists of city manager Wendell Graves and the city’s director of finance David Aristone.
Is it safe to assume they are tasked with winding down the corporation?
THE READERS WRITE
John G. Vigars vents his frustration with some members of the Alma College International Alumnae who are lobbying for a re-creation of the main building facade to be incorporated into the proposed residential development on the Moore Street property.
He writes, “OMG! When are these people going to drop this opposition? Life goes on ladies. Time marches on. If you must be involved get your alumnae scattered around the world to start a go fund me and buy the property or drop it. If I were the developer I would have left this small thinking community months ago.”
Still with the three-building development proposed for the site of the former school for girls, Ed van der Maarel writes, “Looks like I will have 150 units looking into my bedroom!”
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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