“Catch and Release” not just a Sault Problem

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A stock photo of handcuffs from unsplash.com

A Southern Ontario Police Department did something a little unconventional recently; and it was to prove a point.

St. Thomas Police Department, located about 30 minutes south of London, Ontario has released a redacted version of a court report.

“Our Weekly Court Disposition is a report sent out every week to officers advising the outcome of arrests and charges that have occurred in the city,” said the press release that accompanied the court report of the information made public. “This redacted version is an illustration of what types of charges meet the court’s requirement of release with conditions, what type of penalties are being issued upon conviction and how many charges are simply being withdrawn.”

In a report to CBC, they provided two examples of individuals who were being released.

  • A 29-year-old arrested 29 times since 2019, with 77 Criminal Code charges (34 relating to property crime and six to trespassing), four drug-related charges, 39 fail-to-comply charges (26 withdrawn) and 45 charges withdrawn overall. Police have either apprehended him or checked on his well-being 19 times, including for overdoses. He was reported to police 63 times as an unwanted or suspicious person because he’s experienced homelessness.
  • A 27-year-old arrested 30 times since start of 2019, charged with 86 Criminal Code offences, with 22 charges related to break and enter/theft/possession of property obtained by crime/ possession of break-in instrument, six charges related to violent crimes, 58 charges for failing to comply with release orders (47 withdrawn), 59 charges withdrawn overall,13 Trespass to Property Act charges, heavy drug user/mental health issues.

The release continues to explain the current situation.

“The St. Thomas Police Service has long explained that our abilities are limited with the current “catch and release” approach to justice. Officers across Ontario exhaust themselves policing their cities with fairness, compassion, dignity and respect only to see the same offenders being arrested repeatedly.”

In an interview with CBC on the topic, St. Thomas Police Chief, Steve Herridge, repeats many of the things that Sault Police Services are communicating.

“People get arrested, they go to court, they get released, and the cycle starts all over again. We need to find a way to prevent that,” said Herridge to CBC.

Herridge said the situation is frustrating for community members, particularly those who’ve been victims of crime, as well as the arresting officers.

This illustrates what Sault Ste. Marie Police Chief, Hugh Stevenson, said in December is occurring within our city, and is happening in other parts of the province.

“The reality of policing today is that when you have a Bill C 75. That gives you circular justice, when there’s a lack of deterrence in the criminal justice system. When there’s no long-term treatment, what it means is very simply,” said Stevenson. “We end up dealing with the same person four, five, up to 33 times on recall.”

St. Thomas Police have also alerted the public to another issue, that we here, in the Sault,  are all too familiar with.

“We cannot arrest our way out of the cycle of poverty, addiction, homelessness and mental health, nor should vulnerable people be treated like criminals. It will take an authentic and genuine commitment from all of our community partners and levels of government to help those who cannot help themselves.”

Stay with SaultOnline as we continue to investigate bill C-75 and its impact on communities as a whole, here and province wide.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The police are part of the problem when they abuse, assault and disrespect the most vulnerable members of society why would they ever care about any help or treatment. There’s no inclusion in community and in the Soo the only thing city council or the general public seem to care about is a new 7 million dollar plaza or 18 million dollar hockey rink . Defund the police and put the money into mental health and addition treatment.

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  2. How about cancelling bill C-75, that would work, put them in jail with mental health associated help. They know if they do wrong there is no repercussions, they get a free meal maybe and then let back out to reoffend!!! Just crazy, and yes coming soon to your neighborhood if it hasn’t affected you yet it will!!!!!

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  3. They should have chain gangs for these low risk offenders house them in a different low risk facility combined with addiction services and mental health one month for each offence if they don’t break the cycle at least there contributing to society they might like work and choose to change

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