Passersby will be seeing a few extra police cruisers sitting outside of the Waterloo Regional Police detachment in Elmira now that the New Hamburg station isn’t dispatching officers.
The New Hamburg detachment has changed functions, acting as more of an office front, and is no longer dispatching officers to rural locations. Now, all rural officers are dispatched from Elmira.
There was some question as to whether this would affect response times, or police coverage from both Wilmot and Wellesley townships over the past few months, but Staff Sgt. Michael Hinspberger says that isn’t the case. Along with reducing duties from the New Hamburg station, the dispatch schedule and rural coverage assignments have changed, allowing for more effective policing.
“Basically what we have done is amalgamated the cruisers from both south and rural north divisions and with zone realignments, we have actually been able to decrease the number of required cruisers for the entire rural area,” he said, adding that with the new system, officers are policing more effectively. “Before, because of the resource challenges with holidays, sickness and everything else, you had to try and bring someone in from the city to cover, oftentimes if they didn’t have somebody, a zone would sit empty. Because of that, we would have to have an officer from a neighbouring zone, if there is a call, to head to that zone, and then of course, when you do that, you are leaving one zone to go to another, there is that band-aid effect. With the current deployment model, it has gotten rid of that and really improved our coverage.”
The new schedule even allows for officers to do some extra work without cutting into regular patrol shifts.
“It is really helping the amount of proactive police work the officers are able to do. Some of the extra things they like to do, whether it is enforcement, or R.I.D.E., or some of the community requests for speakers, we are able to do those things that before the officers were just too taxed to do,” he said.
Superintendent Barry Zehr, the neighbourhood policing commander with the WRPS, says the New Hamburg building had a few different problems that required a change of plans going forward.
“The New Hamburg division had some health and safety concerns. It needs to be a bit modernized to make a good workplace,” he said. “There is only one way in and out, and most buildings, for fire code nowadays, you need more than one. The other thing that has been referenced a few times are the male and female change rooms and the way that the building is laid out and the size of it doesn’t really allow for an equal workforce when it comes to gender. One of the change rooms was being used by both men and women.”
The New Hamburg station will still be open, and actually more often during the week, but no officers will be dispatched out of that office. Instead, the building will be used for office work. He says it works with the new policing strategy set out in the new year.
“We don’t police from bricks and mortar anymore. A lot of things can be done from cars now, in fact, almost everything. They have full queries, they can access their emails, and all of their communications,” he said, adding that officers don’t always stop in at the division between calls, making the dispatch point less important than in previous years. “Even though the driving time, if you were to directly drive from Elmira division to right to the New Hamburg division is about 38 to 40 minutes depending on traffic, technically, they don’t always go to the division.”
The new strategy and shift system has been in effect for just over a month, and will be put under a review in March to examine how effective implementation has been after 60 days.