Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Timmins mayor forms new task force

Mayor Tom Laughren says a new “mayor’s task force” is being created to help local police cope with the problems of alcohol and drug addictions, and mental health problems that are seen as a driving force behind robberies and other violent crimes in the city.
The mayor made the revelation to city council Monday as Police Chief Richard Laperriere was commenting on the number of robberies and break-ins in Timmins.
Councillor Pat Bamford expressed concern at what appears to be an increase in such crimes.
“I think there must be something we should be looking at in the community whether it’s an ad hoc committee of responsible people, whether it’s the social services or mental health or a variety of people to look at as a community, to look, at this problem.
Personally I don’t think I’ve seen so many robberies,” Bamford told council.
He remarked there had been a similar situation in another Ontario city where all community agencies banded together to fight a growing drug problem.
That prompted the mayor to comment that a significant part of the problem is that the social agencies needed to cope with criminals with drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems do not operate on a round the clock schedule as the police do.
“We have had meetings with local agencies as recently as two weeks ago,” the mayor told Bamford and the rest of council.
“A lot of our agencies are eight-hours a day, five-days a week so the problem gets left with the police department and in many cases they don’t have the expertise to be able to handle those issues,” said the mayor.
“We have also started what I’ll call a mayor’s task force made up of local people who are very concerned about some of the things happening in the community,” said Laughren.
“We are now in the phase where we are going to do the terms of reference as what this committee’s goal will be versus the police services board as an example,” added Laughren, who is also a member of the police services board.
The mayor says the city wants to do whatever it can so that social agencies will get more funding to operate in such a way as to provide effective help to the police.
“So we have some of those things started and I think from that we’ll be able to grow it into what you’re suggesting,” the mayor told Bamford.
Chief Laperriere told council that the police service cannot work in isolation. It needs help from the community.
Laperriere also commented that he is worried about the rash of robberies.
“Robberies are serious. It’s a real concern. Someone may get hurt. The potential is there and it really exists and we have to address it somehow.”
“And more than not, it’s related to some type of addiction, whether it be alcohol or drugs, or mental illness,” said the chief.
“And all I’m saying here today is that yes we have a job to do, we provide a service 24-7 but I think there are other agencies out there that have to come to the forefront, have to come to the plate and assist us. We can’t do it alone. So the message is we all have a role to play,” said the chief.

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