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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

OPP reports a rise in mental health calls

by Sylene Argent

Members of the Essex Police Services Board learned the top calls for service during the month of February included 27 property checks, 26 motor vehicle collisions, and 21 traffic enforcement requests for assistance at their meeting last Thursday.

  Other top calls included 20 alarm responses, 19 for bylaw enforcement, 17 for community service, 13 for neighbour dispute, 13 misdials of 911, and 12 domestic situations.

  There were 23 mental health calls in Essex in February. These calls are up significantly over last year, Staff Sergeant Mike Bradley said. There were six of these types of calls in February of 2020 and 10 in February of 2019.

  Leamington had 46 mental health calls into the OPP in February, compared to 29 in February of last year.

  In total, there was an 84.4 percent increase in Mental Health Response Unit calls in February 2021, compared to February 2020. This Unit, he said, is actively engaged with members of the community who require supports.

  Bradley said with COVID lockdowns, individuals perhaps are not being able to access resources they might have been able to tap into when there were no restrictions. This is when the Mental Health Response Unit members are stepping up to identify those individuals who are falling through the cracks and getting them access to the resources they need to get better.

  Bradley noted the OPP has three separate mental health teams, including the youth team. They are all teamed up with nurse practitioners or social workers, who can link individuals to the help they need. He added the OPP is grateful for the working relationship with Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.

  The OPP received 18 mental health-related service calls in January.

  In addition, Bradley said there were three violent crime calls in February in Essex. There were 10 the previous year. There were 23 property crime instances in February, which was up from 18 in the same month the previous year. 

The property crime instances in Essex over the past three years, Bradley said, have been steady.

  In February, there were 26 motor vehicle collision instances, which was the same compared to February 2020. Bradley said the OPP are grateful the majority of motor vehicle collisions occurring in Essex are relatively minor in nature.

  There were no impaired or exceed offences in February in Essex, however, there was a significant increase in the five local OPP policed municipalities, including provincial offences. In February 2020, there were six instances and 13 this February.

  Bradley is hopeful at the next meeting, there will be a positive reflection on those numbers, with RIDE programs. He asked for patience as this is worked upon. Traffic is a passion of his, and he said anything the OPP can do to help the matter is worth doing.

  There were 16 Criminal Code/YCJA Charges in Essex in February, which was an increase from nine the previous year. The increase was not attributed to anything in particular and Bradley noted there were no crime trends based on those numbers.

  There were no drug offences in Essex in February of 2020 or 2021. There was, however, a 145.5 percent increase in drug charges in February 2021, compared to February 2020 in the five local OPP policed municipalities, including the provincial unit. All together there were 27 instances in 2021 and 11 in 2020.

  The largest increase noticed was through the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act, with 13 offences in Leamington, three in Kingsville, and one through Provincial Units. There were four of these instances in February 2020, all of which were from Leamington. 

  Bradley noted even though there was nothing to report in Essex, the drug trade does impact residents and the OPP is keenly aware of the damage drugs do to communities. Essex OPP officers, he added, did respond to instances of drug overdoes.

  This is something the Street Crimes Unit and OPP works on, he said.

  There were 22 provincial charges in February in Essex, which is a decrease from the 45 instances in February of 2020 and 131 in February of 2019.  

  Bradley said the decrease can be contributed to a couple of things, including less traffic on the road, in addition to more people working from home and avoiding non-essential travel. He added one of the cruisers with a dash-mounted radar system was also out of commission for a period of time.

  The number of traffic stop instances were also down, with 53 in Essex in February of 2021, compared to 76 in February of 2020 and 153 in February of 2019. Bradley said weather does come into consideration as to whether or not the OPP determines if it is safe to stop motor vehicles.

  There were 13 instances of 911 misdials/hang-ups in February in Essex, compared to five in February of 2020. There were also 20 false alarm calls in Essex in February, none of which turned into be a break-in or anything, Bradley said.

  In February of 2021, there were two RIDE programs in Essex and 78 foot-patrol hours.

  He noted there were 12 domestic occurrences in February, none of which were criminal. The OPP is seeing a lot more of these types of cases, with the nature of people working from home and couples being cooped up, Bradley added. 

  In Essex, there was a total of 407 calls for service in February, which was an increase of 16 calls from February 2020 when there were 391 calls. There were 361 calls for service in February of 2019.

  OPP staffer Todd Lavigne said the OPP has been trying to increase patrolling at schools after hours. The OPP, he added, will continue with patrols on the 3rd Concession in regards to speeding. There was another complaint about this ongoing issue recently.

  He added OPP Constable Kim Gray added books to the Harrow Little Library recently, with councillor Sherry Bondy and two other officers pitched-in to purchased a new bike for a local boy, who had his bike stolen. The officers did not want any recognition.

Bradley noted his tenure as Staff Sergeant for Essex is expected to last until the end of May. The process to find a permanent replacement is underway. He said he is enjoying working in Essex. He has learned a lot and has been able to work with a great team.

  The Essex Police Services Board received the report.

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