False alarms tie up police resources better deployed elsewhere.If Dennis Travale, chair of Norfolk’s Police Services Board, has his way, the time and expense arising from this persistent problem will become a thing of the past in the local area.At Wednesday’s meeting of the PSB, Travale suggested that Norfolk County empower police to ignore alarms when monitoring companies are unable or unwilling to verify their legitimacy.If the policy is adopted, Norfolk OPP will be asked to ignore alarms that are unverified in situations where there is no indication anyone is in danger.Whether the local force is able to comply remains to be seen. Insp. Joe Varga, head of the local force, says the proposed policy conflicts with the provincial force’s best practices.“There’s a lot of work to do on my end,” Varga said. “If we get a call for service through dispatch, it’s a call for service and we respond. There’s a liability if we don’t.”Travale countered that the Norfolk OPP – as employees of Norfolk County – should respect the county’s corporate position if that is what its elected leadership decides.False alarms at businesses and in homes are a drain on the public purse. Typically, two front-line officers will spend 30 minutes at the scene confirming that an alarm is false. Multiply by hundreds of occurrences a year and false alarms come at a significant price.Norfolk County has an escalating schedule of fines for keyholders where false alarms are chronic.Nikki Slote, Norfolk’s manager of administrative and client services, told the PSB the paperwork involved can be time-consuming. She added Travale’s plan would lighten the workload in her department considerably.Alarm systems go off for a variety of reasons.High winds trigger some systems while lightning and power surges can keep front-line officers occupied for hours. Pets and mice set off alarms while other systems are poorly installed and will sound at the slightest vibration.Slote said there have been 272 at-fault false alarms in Norfolk so far this year. This compares with 250 at-fault alarms last year and 229 in 2017. Slote estimates there could be as many as a dozen alarm monitoring companies doing business in Norfolk.The county charges $45 to register a security system. Owners are allowed one false alarm before the escalating fines kick in.For registered alarm owners, the first fine totals $75. For owners of unregistered systems, fines start at $100. Slote says 107 alarm systems are registered with the county.In his presentation, Travale cited the Toronto Police Service as a force that only sends officers to investigate verified alarms. Travale pointed out that as many as 95 per cent of burglar alarms in some jurisdictions will be false.Travale will present his proposal to Norfolk council Sept. 17. In the end, council will decide if it wants monitoring company verification before Norfolk OPP respond to an alarm. Whether OPP headquarters in Orillia would agree to such a change is another question entirely.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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Wasagamack Chief Alex McDougall, who is chair of the tribal council, did not sign the letter.In a brief interview with APTN, Chief Alex McDougall said he didn’t sign the letter as a result of a miscommunication, but he supported the request for the temporary suspension.“Children, they are at risk, that is why we are trying to deal with the issues,” he said. “I will decline to make any comments on the story you are pursuing.”The Island Lake First Nations Family Services board is currently overseeing management of the organization in the interim.It also appears the board was not in agreement with the chiefs’ request to suspend the executive director who has been on the job since 2015, according to a separate letter from the acting CEO of the umbrella organization that oversees First Nation child welfare agencies in northern Manitoba. The letter, obtained by APTN, summarized a Feb. 23 meeting between the Island Lake board and the First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority—also known as the Northern Authority.“Throughout the discussion, the board expressed in very clear terms that they valued the work that the executive director has completed since (they) assumed (the) position in November 2015 and clarified that they did not have any specific concerns regarding (their) performance,” said the letter, signed by Bryan Hart, acting CEO for the Northern Authority. “The board clarified that the above concerns were actually coming from community members which were only recently brought to their attention. The board indicated that it was their opinion the executive director does not deserve the criticism being directed against (them).”The letter stated the board expects the executive director to return to their position after completion of the ordered review.In the letter, Hart called the decision to suspend the Island Lake First Nations Family Services executive director as “highly unusual” and “extraordinary.” The letter stated the board listed three issues behind the temporary suspension: the high rate of apprehensions, the placing of too many children in the homes of a particular nationality and the breadth of administrative changes to the Island Lake First Nations Family Services organization since 2015.According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the executive director had been reforming and improving the child welfare organization which led to the termination of several employees. The sources said the tribal council chiefs have faced pressure from certain key members in their communities to move against the executive director as a result of the terminations.“People were let go, a lot of them. There were a lot of issues, a lot of staff were just collecting paycheques,” said one source. “The new director demanded a higher level of accountability. (They) didn’t want staff to be there to collect paycheques, but do the work and make things better for the children who come into care.”The provincial Department of Families, which directly oversees the Northern Authority, declined to comment and referred questions to the Northern Authority.In an interview with APTN, Hart said the Northern Authority does not micromanage local organizations. He said the Authority would continue to “monitor” the situation and maintain “dialogue” with the Island Lake First Nations board.“The board has to be independent discharging its duty from that standpoint or the Northern Authority will have a problem and lead to some formal intervention,” said Hart. “We expect the board to maintain an independence and do what is best for the organization.”Hart said while it was “unusual” for the board to take over administration of the child welfare organization, it was well within its rights under existing laws and rules.He also said First Nations leadership have a role to play reflecting the concerns of their community.“There is an expectation there among the community that they do have a voice,” said Hart.Hart wouldn’t discuss the possible ramifications of the situation.“What comes later will determine itself. 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