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The city’s police department had the third-highest criminal code offences per officer ratio in the province.
Officers are so busy, Ambrose said, that the department can be only reactive to calls for service.
He said the two additional officers will conduct proactive duties, which are necessary to meeting the demands for service and address problem areas.
“If you’ve got a complaint about drug activity at a house or ongoing issues between two residents, rather than just going there, trying to deal with it, trying to fix it and then getting onto the next call because there’s something else waiting, these people can go back and take some time, work with the people and try to come up with a more permanent solution,” he said.
Ambrose said while he could justify seeking four additional officers, adding two this year will address the department’s staffing issues in a fiscally responsible manner that allows the city to keep its combined tax hike below council’s two per cent goal.
Coun. Richard Thomas said he has no issues supporting the department’s proposal, noting it’s clear from Ambrose’s presentation that policing costs cannot be viewed solely as a financial issue.
“It’s a social issue and it’s a social issue that’s not going away,” he said.
Coun. John Tamming said he still thinks council should request another OPP costing, as he believes savings can be found in the service’s budget.
He noted Orangeville’s switch to the OPP this year. The town anticipates it will cut its annual policing costs from about $10 to $5.5 million by 2026 due to the change.
Mayor Ian Boddy said based on the comparisons Ambrose provided between Owen Sound and other Ontario communities he thinks it’s appropriate to add two officers “to protect the community.
On the overall city budget, Boddy said the projected 1.9 per cent combined property tax hike is consistent with council’s ongoing goal of approving annual increases that are less than neighbouring and comparable municipalities.
“And little by little we work our way to having lower taxes compared to other municipalities,” he said.