OPP say keys left in vehicles a problem in rural areas
The rural culture of leaving keys in farm vehicles frustrates police officers who, by law, are no longer allowed to chase vehicles and struggle to keep up with the crime in Huron County.
That message was brought to the Huron County Federation of Agriculture’s (HCFA) annual meeting at the Holmesville Community Centre on Oct. 26 by Huron County OPP Sergeant Andrew MacIsaac.
“When a truck gets stolen off the farm, the keys are in it 99 per cent of the time,” said MacIsaac who was the featured guest speaker, along with Constable Craig Soldan, both of whom were on duty that night but came to the dinner to discuss ways to reduce crime on farms.
“Unless the commissioner’s kid is in the trunk of a car, we are not allowed to chase cars anymore,” joked MacIsaac.
He explained that the thinking is that a vehicle can be replaced, but a life cannot. Also restricting an officer’s ability to find stolen trucks is the number of calls Huron County deals with.
“We are the second busiest county in the province, second only to Essex county,” explained MacIsaac. “The thing is, Essex has 180 police officers and we have 80.”
This is why it’s imperative to take keys out of trucks, ATVs and farm machinery, MacIsaac said, adding the latter is also being stolen on a regular basis.
“Skid steers are valuable and these guys will load them into a U-Haul, truck them to Toronto, sell them for $7,000 and it will be broken down into parts,” said MacIsaac, as an example of crimes they’ve seen in this county.
Recently, OPP officers found three farm implements hidden in a corn field near Exeter waiting for pick up.
“We just want to repeat the message to take out the keys and lock up the barn...don’t make it a crime of opportunity,” said MacIsaac.
He also encouraged farmers to make use of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Analysis (CPTED) which teaches property owners how to make use of lighting and design to prevent criminal activity on their properties.
Soldan added that part of farm crime prevention is to make sure all farm equipment has the required lights for dusk, dawn and night travel. Also, to make sure anything towed is chained to the frame of the truck or tractor, not the tongue.
“We don’t want to lecture you. You know more about farm equipment than we do. We just want to make sure that you don’t take shortcuts when you are busy,” said Soldan.
When a collision happens between a vehicle and farm equipment, all aspects of the crash are investigated and if the farmers hasn’t met the rules set out under the Highway Traffic Act, the consequences can be costly, the officers said.
MacIsaac also warned farmers and rural residents to be skeptical of anyone coming to the door saying their car has broken down and they need gas.
“Many times, that is the ploy they use to see if anyone is home,” said MacIsaac. “If you answer the door to someone and get a weird feeling, then call us. We want to know about that stuff.”
One farmer asked how much right he and other farmers have to defend their property against trespassers.
MacIsaac said if you ask someone to leave your property and they refuse, the best avenue is to call police. If it gets to the point where the trespasser pushes you, you can defend yourself. However, he asked everyone to think about safety.
“Trespassing is a $65 ticket … is it worth it to put yourself in a danger for a $65 ticket,” he asked the attendees.
Another HCFA member was curious how the Huron OPP are dealing with the legalization of marijuana.
MacIsaac said they feel somewhat unprepared and uneducated adding officers wish there were accurate breathalyzers to detect if a person is high and unsafe to drive. However, there are officers considered experts on drugs and can determine if someone is high and driving. He anticipates a breathalyzer to detect high drivers will be available soon.
Also speaking at the HCFA annual meeting was the Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson and Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb.
Lobb said 20 years ago he was a volunteer auxiliary police officer with the Huron OPP, an experience he found enlightening. He said he appreciated the police officers’ talk and it was nice to see “they use common sense.”
Thompson said she’s excited to bring the rural lens to her roles as Ontario Minister of Education and her position on the treasury board.
She’s also keen to teach her urban counterparts about “the good life” to be found beyond the Greater Toronto Area and that urban and rural need each other to be prosperous.
A highlight of the evening was the naming of this year’s honouree for the Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture Award. This year’s winner is Ken Scott of the Seaforth-area, whose involvement with the HCFA spans decades beginning when he was an active dairy and beef farmer. Now retired, Scott says he “still likes to makes comments” and was very honoured to receive the award.
Elections were also held. Ethan Wallace was elected the new president of the HCFA, taking over from last year’s president, Erica Murray. There were no nominations for the role of first vice president. Mike Colclough was named second vice president.
Three large cheque presentations were made at the meeting to distribute funds raised from the HCFA’s food booth at the International Plowing Match held in Walton last year.
Murray presented a $3,700 cheque to the Huron County 4-H Leaders Association, a $3,200 cheque to the Huron Perth Agriculture and Water Festival and a $2,300 cheque to the Ontario Student Nutrition Program.