Four new officers and CCTV cameras result in $1.7 million increase in police budget

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The council also approved a total of $300,000 to be spent on CCTV cameras, which will be placed throughout the city to serve as a crime deterrent and investigative tool.

New CCTV surveillance cameras will be placed in all parts of the city and four more frontline officers will be added to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, as part of a $1.7 million budget increase approved by its board of directors on Thursday.

Chief Hugh Stevenson told the council that the four new officers, along with three additional officers approved earlier this year, represent the first increase to the base front-line officer complement since 1998. Once hired, the number of agents will increase to a total of 142.

One of the reasons for the increase is to combat the ministry’s overtime problem. Stevenson said the amount of overtime the department will pay this year is expected to be around $500,000.

Adding four more officers — one per platoon — will hopefully help ease some of that pressure, Stevenson said.

“We are at least over half a million [dollars] in extension. It would allow me to buy five or six FTEs — full-time equivalent officers — and get 50% more work just because they’re not being paid time-and-a-half,” he said.

Officers who are asked to work overtime often come out of four 12-hour shifts, Stevenson said.

“Overtime contributes to extra sickness in the organization, it turns into situations where officers just don’t have the energy or the time to come in because they just finished a series of four shifts at 12 o’clock. They need to spend time with their family,” he said.

“The argument is that you can’t run a police department overtime,” he added.

Another benefit of additional agents will be visibility and availability.

“When we have downtown associations, businesses asking for more police visibility downtown, the problem is that when we have enough officers – whether it’s an area or not – it’s based on service calls, to be honest. They’re downtown, but they’re called to different callings around the city,” Stevenson said.

“I know times are tight, but we need to be able to respond to service calls,” he added.

Stevenson notes that the 5.6% budget increase is well below the more than 8% increase in the consumer price index.

There are some other factors pushing the budget up, including travel and training, a canine succession plan, as well as inflation. In addition, $110,000 is being invested in a fund for future construction costs and $150,000 will be spent by the ministry to match an equal amount offered by the province for CCTV surveillance cameras.

Those CCTV cameras will be installed as soon as possible, Stevenson said in a media interview after the meeting.

“They’ll be all over the city, I can’t tell you exactly yet. We have to come up with a plan to see how, where, why,” he said.

The hope is that the cameras will be both a deterrent and an investigative tool.

“It’s the knowledge that maybe in high conflict areas we have cameras so people know they’re being watched on a public street and maybe they’re less interested in committing a crime from a prevention perspective and two, if a crime happens, we’re going to have the ability to identify those people on the cameras and initiate investigations,” Stevenson said.

As with the installation of automatic license plate readers earlier this year, a full privacy impact assessment will be carried out.

“It will be similar to the ALPR, we will have to let the community know and there will be signs and all that kind of stuff,” department spokesman Lincoln Louttit said in a media interview after the meeting.

Salaries and benefits account for $29.5 million of the 2023 budget, while operating and capital expenditures account for $5.86 and $1.4 million, respectively.

In a separate report to the board, Stevenson noted that a number of key crime statistics so far in 2022 showed a marked decrease from the same period last year, while the number total calls for service remained relatively stable.

Homicide and robbery statistics so far in 2022 are each more than 60% lower than the same time last year, sexual assaults are down nearly 33% and assaults are down 11% .

The total number of break and enters decreased by almost 35%, while motor vehicle theft decreased by more than 30%.

While many crime statistics are trending lower so far this year, Stevenson noted that motor vehicle collisions and bail violation statistics have each increased by more than 35%.

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