| May 08, 2008

Feature Article - May 8, 2008

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Feature Article - May 8, 2008 South Frontenac Cuts OPP Community LiaisonBy Jeff GreenThe new contract between the South Frontenac Police Services Board and the Frontenac OPP detachment came into effect on April 1. It brought with it the end of the 15-hour weekly community liaison position that has been filled by George Hiles for the past 6 years. It had been created 18 months earlier by Tom Varga.

The position was eliminated as a cost cutting measure by South Frontenac Council this past winter, in the context of policing costs that have increased by 16.5%. Those costs would have been 18.2% higher if the position had been kept.

Frontenac Detachment Commander Gary Ouellette and South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison both supported maintaining the position, and at the time Davison said that he received numerous emails in support of the position. Ron Sleeth and Wayne Hurok, the two community members of the township police services board both said they thought the position should be cut in order to save money.

In a 6-3 vote, council concurred.

Cutting the position brought $52,000 in savings, but that total is more than double the salary that was paid to Hiles.

“Based on an OPP formula, every position includes salary and benefits, plus expenses such as cost of vehicle uniform training and administration attached to it,” said George Hiles in an interview with the News this week.

Among the services that were provided by George Hiles was a weekly Crime Report Summary, the final instalment of which came out last week. He also helped to set up and maintain community, neighbourhood and cottage watch groups, and was available to attend public meetings whenever requests came in.

The weekly crime reports required a lot of sifting to find the most pertinent information for the public. “I would go over the occurrences from the previous week, looking in particular for break and enters, mischief, and threats, anything that might be of interest to the community,” George Hiles recalled, “Over the years I started putting in information on scams and frauds as well. I thought that information should be disseminated.”

The reports were distributed to the media, and to people on an email list that was also built up over time.

Among the recipients each week was Zita Roy, who also had significant contact with George Hiles through her neighbourhood watch activities.

In a letter she sent out this week, Roy expressed some of the support felt in the community towards the position and George Hiles, and some of the concern about what is being lost.

“I am just one of those who regularly receive a wealth of information concerning our community from our very faithful and generous (in many senses of the word, time, energy, thoughtfulness, etc.) George Hiles from the OPP. I think we are all well aware that this very valuable service will end this week. Certainly, it will take time before we all realize the great loss this source of information will be, probably several months before the full impact will be felt,” she wrote.

Roy is hoping to encourage others to keep some vestige of the crime reports summary alive.

On that score, George Hiles is not particularly optimistic. “The idea of a non-police person having access to police information will not go very far unless that person is an interim employee of some sort,” he said.

As to his own future, George said he is going to miss the job, but he will be able to keep busy in other ways.

“Fortunately, it’s golf season now, and the grass is growing,” he said.

Along with this his final crime summary, George Hiles included the following statement.

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