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Road rage, retail rage on the rise in area: South Simcoe police

'A lot of people are on the brink of having a meltdown, and it’s becoming more and more apparent in society,' inspector says of increase in mental health calls
South Simcoe Police Chief John Van Dyke, left, and Insp. Henry Geoffroy made presentations, including the 2022 annual report, to the police services board on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Crime is on the rise in south Simcoe, and police say it’s part of a larger trend.

Earlier this week, South Simcoe Police Services Chief John Van Dyke presented the 2022 Annual Report to the police services board, summarizing police activities for the year including a list of criminal statistics for Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.

While the finalized version of the report is expected to be made available to the public in a few weeks, the preliminary version presented at the meeting showed year-over-year increases of recorded incidents from 2021 to 2022 in the following areas:

  • break and enters were up from 97 to 137;
  • homicides were up from zero to two;
  • suicides were up from three to six;
  • attempted suicides were up from 75 to 124;
  • persons in crisis were up from 210 to 239;
  • person stops were up from 34 to 46;
  • motor vehicles collisions were up from 1,276 to 1,597;
  • Controlled Drug and Substances Act (CDSA) offences were up from 52 to 68;
  • CDSA trafficking was up from 27 to 77;
  • domestic disputes were up from 425 to 537;
  • missing persons were up from 62 to 111;
  • total sex offences increased slightly from 62 to 64.

When it comes to the street crime unit “Basically, the theme would be guns and drugs,” said Van Dyke.

There were also some areas that showed reductions in recorded incidents:

  • robberies were down from 12 to four;
  • sudden deaths were down from 54 to 37;
  • public disturbances were down from 161 to 131;
  • impaired drivers were down from 133 to 90;
  • financial institution fraud fell from 32 to 21;
  • internet fraud fell from 189 to 176;
  • neighbour disputes fell from 365 to 284.

“We’re up in some areas, down in others, but generally, especially on our criminal stats we are in the up category,” said Van Dyke.

Of crime statistics, board member and Bradford Mayor James Leduc felt the number of vehicle incidents stood out the most.

“The driving ones are the No. 1 issue in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil. I think those are areas where we need to improve on. I know council has made that a very big priority for us, community safety and traffic related issues. I think together with the board and the service and the councils, we’ll address that over this term of council," said Leduc.

He added that Bradford’s traffic advisory committee is working on an automated speed camera program.

“If that starts we’ll have the program rolling out very soon, and hopefully we’ll address some of these issues that the residents are concerned about.”

Board member and Innisfil Mayor Lyn Dollin emphasized concerns over the mental health statistics.

“Really striking to me was the mental health section. Double the amount of suicides from 2021 and significant increase in attempts suicides. I think that speaks to where people’s heads are these days. And I’m not just saying in Innisfil and Bradford, but in general,” she said.

Van Dyke also felt that mental health, suicides and attempt suicides were something that stood out, noting police are working to address the issue.

“Unfortunately dealing with suicides and attempt suicides is not something you can really plan for. We do have our COAST unit and we offer six-day-a-week COAST service to our communities, but we’re not there 24/7,” he said.

The Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) is a unit of officers who receive special training and work with mental health support workers to exclusively respond to persons in crisis calls and perform followups.

Thanks to the unit’s level of training above a normal patrol officer, they can look for alternatives to apprehending people in crisis and ways to divert them from emergency rooms, by making referrals to supports in the community.

Still, Van Dyke cautioned that, “mental health issues is actually a health issue, not so much a policing issue.”

Other board members agreed that the increase in mental health calls is part of a national trend, which also includes an increase in road rage.

Insp. Henry Geoffroy explained that as more time passes since the end of COVID-19 restrictions, traffic incidents are returning to the levels last seen in 2019, explaining that road rage seems to be outpacing that trend.

“We have a lot more road rage calls than we ever did before. Before we had one or two per block of four days for a platoon; now we’re getting one or two per day. Most of them, thankfully, are low-level, but we’ve had the ones where there’s physical altercations,” said Geoffroy.

“We do follow up with those road rage calls and nine times out of ten the person admits ‘You know what I lost my temper. That’s unacceptable behaviour,’” he said.

He also suggested the trend toward road rage isn’t just confined to motor vehicles, but is spilling over into other areas.

“We talk about road rage, but there’s also retail rage happening in society. You’ve probably been in a restaurant, coffee shop a lineup somewhere, where citizens are behaving similar (to road rage) in retail or in public places. No one has as much patience as they used to. A lot of people are on the brink of having a meltdown, and it’s becoming more and more apparent in society,” he said.

Dollin said Innisfil staff are all too familiar with the issue.

“We’ve had an increase at the customer service desk at the Town of Innisfil as well. People are coming in who got a parking ticket who are threatening violence,” she said. “We put the Plexiglass up there specifically for COVID and the thought was to eventually take it down, but we might just be keeping it there because people will spit.”

Board chair Chris Gariepy also felt rage was a standout issue.

“It’s surprising how much driver rage there is. It’s good that the community is reporting it; we can’t deal with it unless we’re aware of it. I witness a significant amount of driver rage as you drive through town or on the highways — that is concerning. Equally concerning is what was mentioned about retail rage,” Gariepy said.

Geoffroy confirmed that police do receive and attend calls for rage incidents at places like arenas or coffee shops, even if the incident doesn’t rise to the level of criminality, adding police try to defuse situations through public education and leading by example.

Geoffroy also noted the issue surrounding targeted thefts of pickup trucks from late last year seems to be resolved.

“We were in an anomaly bubble just before Christmas and after Christmas with the Dodge Rams. That group was arrested and identified, so that squelched those targeted thefts,” he said.

Fast Facts: Police calls in 2022

  • 41,955 emergency and non-emergency calls into communications
  • 24,688 calls for services
  • 226 domestic violence incidents
  • 1,597 motor vehicle collisions
  • 5 fatal motor vehicle collisions
  • 58 marine calls for services
  • 4,150 provincial offence notice charges

COAST (Crisis Outreach and Support Team)

  • 469 Crisis Calls
  • 210 Crisis Calls Diverted from Hospital
  • 234 follow-up calls
  • 130 live calls
  • 71 diverted calls

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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