Safety committee still looking after NOTL residents
Members of the Niagara Regional Police Auxiliary and volunteers of the NOTL Safety Committee carry out the Lock it or Lose it program in NOTL parking areas before Christmas. The program is a reminder to drivers to lock their vehicles and stash valuables out of sight. Photo by Alex Pewer/Special to th Advance
It's been 25 years since Niagara-on-the-Lake formed a committee to look after the safety of the community and its residents, and although the town has changed, the work of the committee remains constant.
The biggest change came two years ago, when the Niagara Regional Police discontinued its community policing program across the Niagara Region, says Bill Dickson, who joined the committee almost two decades ago.
Many municipalities across the province still have community policing, says Dickson - he believes the NIagara police force is the only one that withdrew from that initiative. But the town decided to continue with a safety committee, and the NRP still sends representatives to the monthly Monday meetings, he says.
One constant from 1991, the year the committee was formed, has been the bike rodeo for migrant workers - teaching farm workers, who use bicycles as their main mode of transportation, how to be safe on local roads was identified by the original members of the committee as a priority.
Over the years, the NOTL Rotary Club has come on board to help out, said Dickson, and the rodeo has changed to include entertainment as well as some health presentations for the workers, but still focuses on ensuring bikes have reflectors and the workers understand the local rules of the road for cyclists.
This year, the committee will also offer its third annual bike rodeo for children, which is held in conjunction with the Virgil Stampede in May.
Other programs such as Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parents have come and gone, and committee members would like to see them activated.
"The officers who attend our meetings still help out by presenting crime reports, not at every meeting, but if there has been a surge in activity, such as break and enters," Dickson said.
New initiatives have also been introduced, such as Lock it or Lose it, designed to remind motorists to lock their cars, and put any valuables away in their trunks, before they walk away from their parked vehicles - members were out before Christmas putting flyers on cars in NOTL parking areas, after checking to see if they were locked.
Child car seat safety is another issue the safety committee tackles through clinics supported by trained St. John Ambulance volunteers. One was held recently and at least two more will be offered this year.
And coming up in 2016, says safety committee president Cathy Wickabrod, is a drug awareness program for kids in elementary schools in NOTL.
The committee was approached by the NOTL Family Health Team with concerns about the increasing problem of kids using oxycontin, mostly by finding the prescription drug in the family medicine cabinet, she said.
"They felt like it was too late to be reaching out to high school students, that the problem begins with kids in Grade 6, 7 and 8," said Wickabrod.
The safety committee is working with retired Niagara Regional Police officer Terry Thomson, known for his efforts at getting prescription drugs off the street. He promotes a drug awareness program called Say No to Drugs, and is helping the committee to take that message to the three elementary schools in NOTL.
Wickabrod says parents and teachers are supporting the committee's efforts, but so far, the stumbling block has been scheduling some time at Crossroads Public School, where they hope to start.
"We're ready and willing to get this going," she says.
in addition to trying to bring back Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parents, the committee also plans to offer the Child Find program locally.
"Our schools are jam-packed, and we know a number of kids walk home through areas without sidewalks. Child Find and Block Parents are important programs in our community. We have a lot of things in the works."
But it's a small group of volunteers, and help would be appreciated, she added.
"We have a committee of 14 to 16 people, but we get the same group of five members coming to our meetings. This committee exists for the benefit of the town, and if we're going to accomplish all we hope to, we need help. Anyone interested can come to our meetings. The more people we have with us, the more doors we can open, and the more we can accomplish."
The meetings are open, and are held the third Monday of the month in the Mary Snider Room at the Virgil Centennial arena at 4:30 p.m.
Anyone with safety issues to take to the committee is also welcome, said Wickabrod.
For more information Wickabrod can be reached at 905-646-1711 ext.3078.