Continuing to tweak how it patrols rural areas, the Waterloo Regional Police Service will make some changes in the new year. Notably, a staff sergeant will be given divisional command, with two additional sergeants put in place to ensure 24/7 supervision in the townships.
The goal is to further enhance rural policing, chief Matt Torigian told Woolwich councillors in a presentation Tuesday night.
Also on tap is a change in scheduling that will allow for a reduction in the number of constables but increase how many are on duty at any one time. Recognizing the differences between rural and urban policing, WRPS will make rural placements permanent so that officers get familiar with the communities and their needs.
The rationale for the shift is to provide time and resources for more proactive policing in the community.
The moves build on changes introduced in 2011 when regional police assigned an extra five police officers to what was formerly known as Detachment 3A in Elmira – renamed Rural North and encompassing all of Wellesley and Woolwich townships.
Under the old model the rural and the urban areas often overlapped, meaning police officers stationed in those areas were spending much more time in the urban areas of Waterloo and Kitchener than in the more rural areas. As a result, residents were less likely to see officers in their community.
With the latest changes, officers will be more visible still, said deputy chief Brent Thomlinson, who pointed to increases in the amount of time spent doing traffic enforcement since the changes were introduced last year.
In 2010, what was Division 3A did 556 hours of Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) enforcement. In 2012, officers in rural north conducted some 872 hours, a 57 per cent increase. What’s more, if traffic branch officers are factored in, the number of STEP hours jumped to 1,432 hours in 2012 from 736 in 2010, a 95 per cent increase, he said.
Staff Sgt. Kathy Black, who’ll take divisional command of the rural area on January 1, said she’s looking forward to getting to know the communities in the townships. She expects to spend part of each week working out of the current detachment offices in Elmira and New Hamburg.