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COVID results in dip in MD peace officer stats

Luis Gandolfi, director of public safety for the MD of Bonnyville, outlined their quarterly statistics during council's meeting on May 26.
MD Peace Officers
MD of Bonnyville Director of Public Safety Luis Gandolfi presented their quarterly report during council's May 26 meeting.

BONNYVILLE - Luis Gandolfi, director of public safety for the MD of Bonnyville, described conducting peace officer duties during a pandemic as "complicated."

While things are picking up for his department, the past three months have been relatively quiet, he admitted to council during their meeting on May 26. 

“We’re waiting on some direction from administration as far as what’s going to happen with us moving forward and ensure we’re remaining active,” Gandolfi said while presenting his quarterly report from the months of January to March. 

During that timeframe, MD bylaw officers issued 12 bylaw tickets and handed out one provincial written warning. 

“Obviously we have gone through a period... that’s been complicated for us to perform our duties, under the COVID umbrella,” expressed Gandolfi. "We have endeavoured to do what we can while limiting our contact with the public."

When it came to reports, peace officers responded to 107 regulatory bylaw complaints, 31 provincial statutes, 23 miscellaneous calls, 21 rural crime prevention, five emergency responses, two school assistance calls, and two criminal code offences.

"Right now, we are dealing with road bans, off-highway vehicle complaints, and things of that nature are occupying a great deal of our time," Gandolfi detailed. 

Although officers haven't been spending as much time handing out tickets, Gandolfi said as restrictions lift those stats will increase. 

He stressed that just because peace officers aren't pulling over every speeder doesn't mean they aren't doing it at all. 

"What we typically have been doing, is there is a certain amount of flexibility and discretion that we have. Sometimes the public will just get a blast of the lights to indicate we have noticed they're creeping up on the tolerance... If they hit a certain threshold or we feel it's a safety issue, we will interact with them," explained Gandolfi. "I have asked our officers to pull them over and conduct a traffic stop if it's an imminent safety issue."

Ward 1

Officers were busy patrolling in Ward 1, spending a great amount of time in the Fort Kent area. Their main focus was crime prevention.

"Crime prevention patrols are still taking. place, they're kind of the bread and butter of what we do on a general basis," Gandolfi said. 

He explained how when peace officers attend a location, they patrol the area for a 30-minute block.

They conducted four Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) surveys on municipal properties, in addition to responding to three animal control complaints, and two incidences where the public needed assistance. Officers were involved in an unsightly property report, criminal code incident, a property line dispute, a vacant home check, and traffic safety. 

Ward 2

Patrols were conducted in the area of Hwy. 660, the Moose Lake East subdivisions, and the North Shore Heights region, among other parts of the ward. 

Two dog owners were issued a ticket or written warning for having their pet at large. 

Ward 3

Franchere was the most popular place for peace officers to patrol, with Goodridge and Therien next in line. 

The most common reason officers were in these areas was for crime prevention. 

Similar to Ward 2, Ward 3 had two dogs running at large resulting in a ticket or written warning. A member of the public was failed to obey a traffic control device. 

When it came down to reports for the ward, loose loads, garbage dumping, debris, and materials on the road made up just one of the region's complaints, while animal control had two. 

Officers were invited out to two properties to conduct CPTED surveys. 

The Village of Glendon

Sixty-five patrols were conducted within the village of Glendon, seven in the school zone and one on Pyrogy Drive. In most cases, peace officers were conducting crime prevention patrols. 

One CPTED survey was conducted and there was one report of a traffic safety act violation. 

Ward 4

The Lessard and La Corey areas were a common patrol area for peace officers, with the Dupre region and Iron River communities also receiving attention. 

Officers were called to the Lessard area in relation to one animal control complaint over the course of the four months. 

A single report of a suspicious person came in, as well as calls regarding a parking violation, CPTED survey, a non-urgent request for assistance, and a complaint relating to loose loads or garbage, rock debris, or materials on the road. 

Ward 5

Ardmore was an area of focus for peace officers as they patrolled, followed by the Hwy. 892 area, Riverhurst, Ardmore Landfill, and remaining parts of the ward. 

Similar to the other wards, crime prevention was the main purpose for their travels in these regions. 

Peace officers responded to two motor vehicle collisions, two animal control complaints, and conducted two CPTED surveys. 

They were also asked to respond to a traffic safety act, off-highway vehicle, unsightly property, vacant home check, a suspicious person, and an abandoned vehicle. 

Ward 6

The Cold Lake airport and Cherry Grove areas were the top spots patrolled for the ward, with Twp. Rd. 630 and Hwy. 897 not far behind. 

There were six animal control tickets or written warnings issues, three from the Beaver Crossing area, two from the Hwy. 897 region, and two in Cherry Grove. 

Fireworks, a motor vehicle collision, and a crime deterrent patrol request had officers responding, in addition to them conducting two vacant home checks and two CPTED surveys. 

Peace officers were called about three theft/vandalism incidences, four parking/traffic control issues, and nine animal control reports. 

In total, the MD public safety department conducted 149 vacant home checks, most of which were in Ward 1. 

Gandolfi told council he feels the program is valuable. 

"I think it increases the amount of travel the officers do and increases the visibility... And I think it provides a service to the community. I think it’s a respected program."

The total number of crime prevention patrols conducted by officers between January and March was just shy of 2,600. Twenty-one per cent were targeted while the remaining 79 per cent were general. 

“Unfortunately, you don’t know what you’re preventing because it doesn’t happen. It’s sort of a thankless endeavour but we do what we can," noted Gandolfi. 

Nearly 800 of those patrols were done in Ward 1, while 311 were in Ward 2, 318 in Ward 3, 377 in Ward 4, 439 in Ward 5, and 287 in Ward 6. The Village of Glendon had 68. 

Due to COVID, School Resource Officers had a quiet few months offering their programs virtually. They conducted 43 school visits or contacts. Cold Lake Elementary School took advantage of the program the most and invited officers to interact with their students on 34 occassions, while H.E. Bourgoin Middle School arranged for 24 activities, Dr. Bernard Brosseau had nine, Notre Dame High School and Holy Cross set up eight, and Art Smith Aviation Academy interacted with them on seven. Other schools across the region had four or less activities with the officers. 

The MD has launched their Voyent Alert app, and have sent out two notifications to-date. 

“It’s active and we have done two alerts on it so far. I think we have on it right now, 68 subscribers," Gandolfi expressed, adding he expects the numbers to start to climb as more people become aware of the program. 

Overall, Gandolfi said peace officers are "itching" to get back to it and are eagerly waiting for the province to give them the green light to start working with the public more regularly. 

“I know the numbers are a little bit low, no one wants to get back to work more than we do."

Meagan MacEachern, Bonnyville Nouvelle