Surge in incidents, human trafficking basis for substantial grant to St. Thomas Police Service

city_scope_logo-cmykThe past few days were a good news/bad news rollercoaster ride for the St. Thomas Police Service.
On the positive side, the service was the recipient of $870,000 in provincial dollars under the new Community Safety and Policing (CSP) Grant program over the next three years.
In total, the province is investing $195 million in the initiative.
According to a media release announcing the investment, the police service “is collaborating with several community agencies to better support survivors of human trafficking as they go through the investigative process.
“The funding will help provide ongoing training to enhance frontline officers’ knowledge and abilities in supporting survivors, add a new Street Crimes police officer, provide the necessary resources to maintain the position of Technological Crimes Investigator and help develop a social media awareness campaign to encourage the public to be an active police partner on the issue of human trafficking.”

On the flip side, the police service last Saturday surpassed last year’s record of 18,840 incidents.
Not the kind of record to be proud of.
Yesterday (Dec. 13) we chatted with Police Chief Chris Herridge on both matters.
He noted much of the trafficking in this province occurs along the Highway 401 corridor. And, St. Thomas is not immune.

Solicitor Ge neral Sylvia Jones

Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones announces a $195 million investment over three years for community safety and policing.

“We’re on the lower end here,” advised Herridge, “and, we’re trying to keep it that way. We want to get a pulse on the community, what’s happening with prostitution, what’s happening with human trafficking.
“We participate in the provincial sting that they do so that we stay educated, and that’s part of this grant to keep our officers educated and ensure that we have officers trained, and we do have available officers to participate in this because this is something that we want to keep away from our doorstep.”
Another record year of incidents puts a mental and physical strain on officers and Herridge stressed that is one of the reasons he applied for the grant.
“We looked for another street crime officer because we know that we have all these issues that are happening in the city with property crime and drugs.
“But we also know that we want to keep human trafficking in check here and let’s not let it get a hold of St. Thomas like it’s got a hold in London and other municipalities.”
And that’s why it’s important, noted Herridge, that the province provides the financial resources to deal with the increase in reportable incidents in general and specific issues such as human trafficking.
“This is a provincial problem. And, it’s a national problem. So, the federal government has to step up with how we’re going to deal with all of these issues that are impacting the wellbeing of all communities.”
Herridge stressed the key role played by a Technological Crimes Investigator whose job is to analyze laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices.

“With every case when you’re dealing with child porn and child exploitation, there are usually thousands of images when you get into someone’s electronic device, that have to be reviewed as a part of the fact-gathering evidence for the case.”

“I think last year there were nearly 200 devices analyzed. And, that position also involves keeping tabs on child porn as well. Any of those child porn investigations or anything that’s inappropriate that comes through electronic means.”
Herridge explained forensic computer analysis (FCA) takes you in two distinct directions.
“One is to take a look at devices. So that’s truly the FCA part of it. Examining devices and gathering evidence.
“The second side of that is what we call ICE, internet child exploitation. That’s when you get into your people downloading child porn or, or trying to, pick up an eight-year-old or 10-year-old or 12-year-old through the internet.
“With every case when you’re dealing with child porn and child exploitation, there are usually thousands of images when you get into someone’s electronic device, that have to be reviewed as a part of the fact-gathering evidence for the case.”
Which takes a mental toll on the investigators.
“They’ve gotta have time to decompress. And we kind of have our schedule here for our investigator that is four days a week. They work 10-hour days so they can have a long weekend to decompress and just get away from work, get away from the computer, get away from the screen, get away from those pictures, and just try and get that out of their mind.”
As to a second straight record year on the number of incidents, Herridge noted the service recently dealt with 71 of them over a 24-hour period.
On days like that, knowing the province has your back through financial support is a morale-booster for the front-line officers.
“When they see that type of support coming from the province and support from the community, city council and the Police Services Board to support our budget request, I think that does do a lot for morale because policing can be a thankless job.
“And then when you take a look at social media, you see the positive comments that we’re getting – we get negative ones too – but the majority are positive. So again, that gives us a good feeling that we have our community behind us.”


Following approximately three hours of deliberation earlier this month, council will no doubt approve the city’s 2020 budget during Monday’s (Dec. 16) meeting.
A budget containing $40 million in capital expenses and $132 million for day-to-day operations.
This will require a tax levy of just over $57 million, resulting in a property tax increase of 2.43 per cent.
There remain some disturbing elements tucked away in the line items.
Like the $906,000 parked in the corporate services component of the budget to account for wage increases and salary adjustments resulting from contract negotiations scheduled for the coming year.
Then there’s the $400,000 amount tabled for overtime in the budget of the city’s fire service.
And, how about the $106,000 spent on legal fees in the HR department through the end of November when only $75,000 was budgeted.
In 2020, an amount of $125,000 has been plugged in.
It is unlikely any member of council will question this Monday evening. They’ve stayed well clear so far.
Mayor and councillors have avoided the tough questions expected of them when they won the support of city voters.

Related post:

2020 St. Thomas budget outlook: Contract negotiations cloud the horizon at city hall


At Monday’s reference committee meeting, council will be updated on the city’s 10-year housing and homelessness plan, first put in place in 2014.
As mandated by the province, the city must review the plan at least once every five years and make amendments as necessary or as advised.
As noted in the report, circumstances in the community have changed “significantly” over the past five years.
Walnut Manor - food services closed signjpgThese include “a surge in the real estate market” and “the increased problem with street drugs and addictions.”
It’s a detailed overview of what has been accomplished over the past five years and what remains to be done.
Of particular note is Objective 2.3, “Create a new city bylaw for regulation of boarding/lodging houses and ensure the bylaw is regularly enforced. Seek sources of support for residents in boarding/lodging houses.”
We assume this would include facilities like Walnut Manor, much documented in this corner over the years.
The overall objective, according to the plan, is to “Ensure that boarding/lodging houses in the community are maintained in safe and well-maintained state to preserve the wellbeing of those housed in such circumstances.”
As such, the passage of an upgraded city rooming house bylaw was to have been undertaken this month.
Through enforcement, a 20 per cent reduction in the number of substandard units is a target for next year.
The wellbeing of residents in rooming houses is to be increased although no target date for such has been determined.
Likewise, no target date has been established for the provision of funding to lodging house owners for health- and safety-related renovations.
A system to provide supports to tenants to facilitate stability of housing, reduce stress and enhance wellbeing is to be fully implemented by the end of next year.
That is also the timeframe to establish a residential care home licensing program as a means of regulating care homes.
And, revise existing city standards of care for residential care homes to include annual inspections, a confidential complaint line and penalties for violations of these standards of care.
Let’s see how Vishal Chityal and Niagara Supportive Living – the owners of Walnut Manor – cooperate with the city next year in implementing these long-overdue requirements.

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She felt he “would have made a really good prime minister,” and there were “tears in my eyes” when she heard the surprise announcement Thursday in the House of Commons.
Speaking with Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio hours after Andrew Scheer declared he was resigning as Conservative leader, she affirmed “I have such a huge respect for Andrew. He is what I would say is one of the ultimate family men.
karen-vecchiojpg“He has been an exceptional leader. And I think we were all shocked.”
Vecchio continued, “This is a man who loves his country who loves this party. But ultimately, he loves his family as well.”
Which may have played in a role in forcing Scheer’s hand as Global News first reported, “Scheer resigned after news erupted within the party earlier this week that he had been getting reimbursed by donor money to pay for the cost of putting four of his five children in private school.”
And yesterday (Friday), the executive director of the party, Dustin van Vugt, was fired after approving the use of those funds.
The importance of family life is not lost on Vecchio.
“As a mother of five kids, I can tell you one of the most difficult jobs is juggling that private life and that public life. I can only imagine being in the shoes of Andrew.”
As to who will replace Scheer, the dust must first settle, suggested Vecchio.
“And so right now, we have to refocus. But the most important thing is, we know what’s in our party that remains very united. What we’ll need to do, but our challenge going forward is making sure that this government is held to account.
“Right now we want to make sure that we have the best legislation, the best policies going forward. And I think minority governments can work if everybody’s at the table, listening, talking, and making not necessarily quick concessions, but doing what’s best for all Canadians.”
Dealing with leadership is the domain of the party’s national council, stressed Vecchio, “And my job is to be a parliamentarian. I will let the party deal with the party side and my job will be making sure I represent the people of Elgin-Middlesex-London first.
“The party is another side of my job, but I do keep those pretty separate.”
We asked Vecchio if now would be the perfect opportunity to consider a female leader of her party.
“I’ve always focused on the best person for the job should always be the winner. And that’s how I’ll continue. I just want the best person leading Canadians.”
Could that someone be Rona Ambrose, former interim leader of the party between 2015 and 2017?
“I’ve heard her name so many times already. Yeah, absolutely.”
Then there’s Lisa Raitt, who served as deputy leader of the party from 2017 through this year but lost her Milton seat in the fall federal vote.
“That could be an opportunity for her as well. You’re absolutely right. We have to see how things unfold. So yeah, it’s gonna be one day at a time. We have to let the dust settle.
“And as I said, we have one job to do and that’s keeping the government to account.”
Did those strong family beliefs Vecchio noted, including his position on abortion and the LGBTQ community, make it difficult for the Conservatives to win seats in the Greater Toronto Area?
“You know, potentially, I think, potentially,” suggested Vecchio. “But you know, I have quite a wide variety of views as well. And I did very, very well. I think the biggest thing is when you’re on the ground, you can dispel some of those misnomers about people.

“This is my family outside of my riding and outside of my own personal family. There are people here that have your backs and there are people that care so much about you.

I am seen as a very pro-choice woman, but we know that I have a huge number of pro-life followers and that’s fine because it’s really about finding that balance.
“People are allowed to have their own views, but when we’re in Canada, we make policies for what is best for Canadians.”
Scheer would have faced a leadership review next April and this turn of events “puts the party four months ahead of schedule if the vote wasn’t going to be in favour of him staying on,” pointed out Vecchio.
And, Vecchio continued, “unity in our caucus is still very, very strong. As we move forward, that is what matters.”
Reflecting back on what transpired several hours earlier, Vecchio admitted “For me today it has been bittersweet. It really has.
“This is my family outside of my riding and outside of my own personal family. There are people here that have your backs and there are people that care so much about you.
“They’re your allies. They’re your colleagues. You’re a team and so every member of the team matters.”

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On Dec. 18 at 7:30 p.m., the Royal Canadian Legion, Lord Elgin Branch 41 is hosting an evening of music and Christmas carols at Trinity Anglican Church, 55 Southwick Street. It’s open to the public and proceeds from the free-will offering will go to the Veterans’ Poppy Fund. You are also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for The Caring Cupboard. Legion members planning to attend are asked to come in full dress.

If you’re looking for something to do over the Christmas holidays, the Municipality of Central Elgin is hosting public skating at both the Belmont and Port Stanley arenas. Belmont dates and times can be found here and Port Stanley times are here.

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