Highlights from Police Board Meeting: Homecoming, Hate Crimes and Surplus

It was a relatively brief October meeting for the Guelph Police Services Board, but there were some interesting details revealed in the course of the virtual conference. There was an update about hate crime stats in the city, plus some reporting about police actions during Safe Semester and Homecoming last month. Also, what’s the latest about the police budget for this year, and next?

Guelph Bucks Hate Crime Trend in 2021

After a spike in reported hate crimes in Guelph in 2020, there was actually a dip in 2021. In an information report in the Police Board agenda that wasn’t discussed in the meeting, John Robinson of the research and development office confirmed that while there was 10.2 reported hate crimes per 100,000 people in Canada in 2021, there were only 4.8 per 100,000 in Guelph.

Of course, this one year dip came after the city hit 15.3 per 100,000 compared to 8.1 per 100,000 Canada-wide in 2020, and since 2017 Guelph has been routinely above the national average in reported hate crimes. No reasons were given for the big dip in reported 2021, but the report did explain that the service is trying to co-ordinate with community groups to make sure they understand the importance of reporting hate crimes when they happen.

“As a Service, we strive to build positive relationships with our diverse communities with the expectation that trust will encourage reporting of hate crimes to the Service,” the report read. “These efforts have continued and will continue to be a priority for the Service and we believe changes in numbers of reported incidents are a reasonable indicator of changes in actual hate crime activity. That said, the Service recognizes that some hate crime likely remains unreported.”

It will remain to be seen what the 2022 hate crime stats will say after three high-profile hate crimes this month alone.

Homecoming Costs More Money in 2022

In his monthly oral report to the board, Chief Gord Cobey laid out the costs in money and resources for policing both the annual Safe Semester program and Homecoming.

“This year, Operation Safe Semester provided additional resources to supplement our neighbourhood services platoons and University of Guelph Campus Safety Office for Friday and Saturday nights from September 2 to 23,” Cobey explained. “Overall, the approximate cost was approximately $68,000, of which the University of Guelph contributed approximately $28,000 because they sponsored a lot of paid duty officers for Safe Semester.”

In terms of actual officers, that was 30 additional people posted downtown and 51 posted in the areas around campus itself during the weekends in September.

“In relation to the Homecoming event itself this year, the overall cost was approximately $113,000. Approximately $15-$16,000 was from the University for paid duty members, and the remainder is the cost that the Service contributes towards having extra members to support the University as well as Chancellors Way,”

For Homecoming alone, there were 58 additional officers deployed to support police operations while 10 officers were deployed in the area around campus specifically. According to Cobey the plan that Guelph Police had in effect that day seemed to cover all the bases.

“Overall, there were no major incidents or injuries that weren’t anticipated,” Cobey said. “Obviously, it’s a busy event. I think on average we have approximately twice the number of calls for service on Homecoming itself, but with the the support of the University, our community partners and the extra resourcing that we had, the event was well-managed, and nothing was unanticipated.”

Deputy Chief Daryl Goetz added that Police and their community partners will refine their plans for next year noting that unsanctioned parties on Chancellors Way, and the potential dangers that might arise, are a serious area of concern. “We are still working out strategies to mitigate that,” Goetz added.

Compared to 2021, Police spent $36,000 in additional policing for Homecoming. In 2019, the last Homecoming before the start of the pandemic, extra policing cost $72,000. In past year’s there was additional discussion about spreading out the cost of Homecoming with the U of G, but at this meeting there were no follow-up questions about Homecoming or Safe Semester from the board.

Police Projecting Surplus for 2021

The Guelph Police Service is on course to finish the year without completely spending it’s allotted budget according to the third quarter variance report.

“As you’ll see on the report, we are forecasting a $850,000 a year surplus, and the surplus is primarily being driven by salaries and benefits,” explained Sarah Purton, temporary manager of financial services. “At a high level, all measures on the dashboard are green as of September and year-to-date spending is 70.7 per cent of the full year budget.”

Banked overtime, and position vacancies (using temp staff and overtime to fill vacant permanent staff positions) are the primary drivers of the surplus.

On the capital side, more than half of the $3 million capital budget for 2022 has gone to the completion of the police headquarters renovations with another $478,000 going to equipment replacement, which is on budget, and $548,000 for the Body Worn Camera Project, which is now slightly over budget.

In terms of the 2023 budget, it was ready for board approval with no changes to the operating budget for next year as it was already presented to council last December, but there were some additional motions about allocating the budget surplus to reserve funds. The board approved a motion to refer the budget back to the finance committee for additional questions.

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