‘Definitely some issues down here’: Orillia merchant on crime in city’s core

Downtown Orillia is calling for a heightened police presence in the core to combat ongoing criminal activity.

manager Lisa Thomson-Roop, in a letter to the city’s police board, calls for the next OPP contract to include a dedicated foot patrol from May through September.

“While the OPP have always been very quick to respond to calls for assistance, the board and members believe a dedicated foot patrol, perhaps using recently retired officers, will greatly reduce the current undesired behaviour downtown and the need for calls for assistance in the core,” Thomson-Roop said.

The merchants’ organization has over the past three years sought an increased police presence “to curb unwanted behaviour, ensuring customers and business owners feel safe while doing business downtown,” she noted.

Thomson-Roop suggested the “much-needed” service enhancement be included when the police board and city negotiate the next OPP contract.

Mayor Steve Clarke said the police board was “certainly willing to have the conversation,” adding the detachment had recently welcomed a new commander who “went to lengths to make sure he understood some of the challenges we face in the downtown and in the city at large.”

Insp. Coyer Yateman has reached out to the downtown board to better understand the issues, added Clarke, who said he would work to ensure Yateman is aware of the challenges and the importance of foot patrols.

Clarke provided data showing what he said represented “a significant increase” in the number of hours officers spent on foot patrols in the past year, including a nearly 220 per cent increase in February over the same month last year.

owner Patricia Cousineau told Simcoe.com she had noticed some improvement in the frequency of patrols downtown this summer, adding she hoped to see more in future.

“It would be nice, because there’s definitely some issues down here,” she said. “It’s definitely not where it should be, I don’t think.”

Thomson-Roop said police had “done their best in terms of trying to get more foot patrols here, but there isn’t … a dedicated fund for it.”

“It comes down to if they have time,” she told Simcoe.com, adding that Yateman had been visiting and talking with people in the core.

The downtown board also asked that staff write Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, requesting municipalities be authorized to regulate methadone clinics via zoning in their communities and, separately, that detachment commanders serve a community for a minimum of three to five years before moving onto another role.

Clarke voiced support for those two requests, while encouraging the board and its members to make their issues known to the OPP’s community mobilization unit and report all incidents of crime.

He noted the city was encouraging participation in , in which residents/businesses voluntarily identify their video surveillance locations through a secure online form.

Identified addresses are mapped on a database of camera locations that police can then reference when investigating crimes.

Officers must seek permission to view and use camera footage for an investigation.

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