Waterloo Regional Police Services are looking into opening a new “satellite” office space to be located at the Wellesley arena next year.
In a presentation to township council Tuesday, superintendent Daryl Goetz explained that the satellite office space would help increase police presence in the rural areas as well as help improve response times.
As opposed to a police station, the satellite office envisioned by WRPS would not be staffed. Instead, it would allow officers to do their administrative work – or even simply use the washroom at a late hour – without having to leave the township for the police stations in Elmira or Waterloo.
“That travel time takes the car away,” said Goetz. “I’d rather have the car stay out here.”
The other benefit to opening a satellite at the arena would be to allow police to maintain a more visible presence in the community, he said. Police could more easily promote their educational programs to the community, like the “Lock it or Lose it” campaign, which encourages people to keep vehicles and homes locked.
“We’ve had some great discussions about, ‘what can we do for Wellesley?’ We don’t have a physical presence in Wellesley right now in terms of bricks and mortar,” he said.
The satellite offices are an affordable alternative to full-fledged stations, which have in recent years become increasingly impractical for smaller communities, he explained. Visits to rural police stations by the public have sharply declined over much of Canada, in large part due to increasing use of technology to report crimes and access services.
The satellite envisioned by the police at the Wellesley arena would specifically be for police officers assigned to “rural zone 1.” As policing zones are not strictly divided along municipal boundaries, but rather by geographical barriers, the zone actually encompasses the southern half of Wellesley and the northern parts of Wilmot.
Coun. Carl Schmidt questioned placing the office in the village of Wellesley, rather than in a more central location to the other communities in Wellesley Township. He suggested a location along Lobsinger as an alternative. Mayor Joe Nowak, however, agreed with the choice of location.
“I think the village [Wellesley] is the only area where there’s going to be any substantial growth over the next five to ten years,” he pointed out. “I would think, even more so it would be important to have [the satellite] in the high-growth area.
Coun. Shelley Wagner also expressed concerns about the satellite “going” to Wellesley.
“What we’re hearing here, and Carl will also have to explain this to the people from St. Clements as I will have to explain to the people from Hawkesville, is that once again it’s something that’s going to Wellesley,” said Wagner.
“It is the town of Wellesley, and it’s not central for the Township of Wellesley. And for us who don’t represent the town of Wellesley, we are quite often explaining to our residents why everything is going to the town of Wellesley,” she added.
Goetz said the arena was selected in large part because of the popularity of the spot.
“I’m going to suggest that probably most people go to that arena, for recreation or you have festivals there; you have your fall fairs there,” he said. “So in terms of best visibility to the community, that’s probably why that site was selected.”
The police service remains open to suggestions, he noted. He also pointed to a separate study being done by the regional police to determine the best location from which to deploy police in rural areas.
“What’s part of the next business cycle for the 2018 to 2020 business plan … is to look at how we deploy best for rural,” he said. “And that may or may not involve a new site to deploy from.”
No specific timeline for the satellite project has been sent, but a sample contract for the arena space has been sent to the township for review.
“That will come back to council in January for discussion and approval, and if council approves that then I think we could probably have something in place by March,” said township chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie.