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We went to a meeting last night

With 250 other people. The Chief of the Cobourg Police Service (CPS) called a community meeting to as he said it “How to address the fear in this community!” He then spoke for twenty minutes about how the statistics are proving that Cobourg is a safe place. Acknowledging the fear that is expressed by some on social media and the Internet – without a main stream media that is the only source of news in Cobourg, he did try to assuage those fears. ” I am not here to diminish the problem but still insist that Cobourg is a safe place. I want to move your fear and I know incidents impact you all” Finishing his opening statement he said “I am not going to debate with you – stats don’t lie and violent crimes are going down. We have demonstrated improvement and we address concerns.”

Whether he suceeded was an unknown as he really did not have any specific answers to the questions and comments related to incidents that have happened lately. The person from the public that made the biggest impression on the audience, she was rewarded by loud applause, was Debbie Irwin, co-owner of a medical business located on McGill St.. Her opening statement, followed by five questions summed up the attitude of the Downtown and the populace; “We are not living in fear, are getting tired!” The five questions she asked were:

how do we deal with

  • with damage to our property – “we are fedup with having to repair our stairwells”
  • garbage produced by ‘street-people’
  • trespassing
  • the constant harassment of our Staff
  • how do we, as a medical facility keep a sterile environment?

The Chief while sympathetic could only offer promises that the CPS will do better. “That’s why we are here (in this forum)” Going on to say “No-one has to put up with what you are putting up with” He then proceeded to tell the audience what they knew already – “We need more Harm Reduction and needle depositories; others need to help” But failed to say how we should get them.

But getting back to the point of the meeting, from the Chief’s perspective, “Cobourg is a safe place – stats don’t lie”, he pointed to last years stats about violent crime.There were 11,289 calls on the record, 5% of those were violent crime – 157 total. He emphasised this point – only 5 of those calls were performed by a stranger. A stranger is a person unknown to the complainant/victim. However the audience appeared sceptical of this fact. As far as crime in the Downtown another slide showed that only 4 incidents were committed by strangers.  The Chief then proceeded to discuss non-criminal crimes – those incidents involving issues of addiction, mental health and homelessness. “16% of our calls are non-criminal,”

Jeff McLean, self described organisor of a group called “No more drugs in Cobourg” asked “Why do you not arrest the drug dealers?” This question was answered by the Deputy Chief who explained that “It takes a lot of work to make a case. In another answer he explained that when they can make a case action was taken in a residence on John St, using all the tools available – bylaws, zoning and the law. “Sometimes we go after the landlord but we cannot close a residence.”

Another questioner expressed her fear of the ‘street-people’ and asked “Who cleans up the drug paraphernalia found on the streets. A person then shouted out, “Call PARN” (PARN is a community based agency providing support and health promotion for people HIV-infected and HIV-affected. PARN provides education for people at –risk for HIV and awareness of HIV issues to the broader community.) The Chief then gave out the phone number 705-749-9110. In response to the fear caused by strange actions by “odd” people the Chief explained to the room, “That it not an offense to scream at the stars at one in the morning.” In the same vein of ‘odd’ people the CPS will take them to the emergency services if needed, and in the HARM programme a trained social services provider will ride in the car with an officer. “In fact last night we responded to two of those incidents.”

Other questions asked were:

  • “why do you not charge for simple possession?” – Because Federal guidelines do not allow it.
  • “How do we feel comfortable going to the Library” (apparently street people use it as well as regular folks) – talk to the Staff at the Library. This answer elicited some groans from the audience.
  • “Why are crimes not enforced?” – Crimes can only be enforced if there is evidence and a complainant/ victim
  • “Port Hope does not have these problems – why?” Because Port Hope is smaller, Cobourg is the County seat everybody comes here for the services, and stay.
  • “I feel unsafe” – “If you feel unsafe come to us”
  • “What is the CPS doing to support the marginalised?” – “We treat all the people in the same way, we do not turn a blind eye and mentally ill offenders may be treated differently under the law because of their conditions.”

In conclusion, some two and three quarters of an hour later the Chief wrapped up ny answering this question; “What are you doing to support your Staff?” He then said, “I have the easiest job in Policing in the Country, my staff come in to work every day because they want to, they want to do a great job and they do. They are supported by great support programmes and the Health and Safety policies. We got great people!”

The BurdReport Opinion

As a PR exercise it scored 9/10 – well organised, and the Chief is a fantastic stand-up speaker. Charm the birds out of the tree kinda guy. How effective it will be in calming the fears of the populace and quelling the flame wars on social media not much. The keyboard warriors (come on down Dakota Goseyun and others) who have been lighting up the local Cobourg FB groups were not in evidence, if they were, they decided to sit on their hands and do nothing at a public meeting.

The biggest disappointment for us was that the Mayor, who is really all over the place on this subject didn’t stay to hear all the Q&As and the Chief didn’t really tell us, as a Citizenry, what we should be doing to demand more harm reduction services and wraparound programmes.

Well that’s three hours of our time we won’t get back

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