With funding cut to the Citizens on Patrol program of the Greater Sudbury Police Service, a local man has started his own neighbourhood watch program in the Valley.
“I’m out almost every night,” said Scott Seguin, who has enlisted a handful of volunteers to patrol their neighbourhoods in the Valley and keep an eye out for criminal activity.
“We’re driving around with our windows down, listening for people in neighbourhods.”
Seguin, who is running for the Ward 6 councillor position in this year’s municipal election, heads out at around midnight to help keep an eye on things.
A self-proclaimed “night owl,” he said, “Instead of sitting around the house watching movies or TV, I’m doing something productive for people.”
After approximately three weeks of these nightly patrols, Seguin said he has called police to investigate a few matters, including a naked person attempting to break into a chip stand in Hanmer, suspicious vehicles and other activities he believed warranted the attention of officers.
One of the volunteers he enlisted has been visiting the sites of pit parties after they’ve wrapped up, where they collect enough beer cans to cover the cost of fuel. A hazard at these party sites are flames left unattended, including one he said they found flaring 20 feet into the sky.
Seguin’s group of self-funded community stewards filled in after the Greater Sudbury Police Service-funded Citizens on Patrol initiative had its funding cut earlier in the pandemic.
“In 2021, city council directed the police board to reduce its budget and approved the removal of funding for the COPS program and, currently, it has not been reinstated,” according to a police spokesperson.
“We are currently in the process of reviewing all of our volunteer programs and the budgetary impacts as we prepare our budget submissions for 2023. We are committed to reviving our volunteer programs in the most effective and efficient way to best serve the community members of Greater Sudbury.”
Although the spokesperson had few details on the local initiative, including how many volunteers took part in it, they clarified the volunteers were mandated with reporting suspicious, disruptive and criminal behaviour to police.
“Volunteers are part of a team patrolling Greater Sudbury's neighbourhoods and deterring crime by providing additional eyes and ears for the Police Service,” they said. “They also act as a liaison at our various events promoting the COPs program within the community.”
According to the police service’s website, volunteers were provided with a vehicle, uniforms, mobile radios, notebooks and equipment bags, among other necessities.
Citizens on Patrol provided a service Seguin determined to be worthwhile enough for him to spend his own money on fuel to drive around the Valley keeping an eye on things.
Through his travels, he strives not to put himself in danger, and does what the Citizens on Patrol members did when they came across suspicious behaviour and calls it in to police. He secured a direct contact number to report sightings to the Break Enter and Robbery Unit of the city police’s Integrated Crime Team.
“We used to be in a community where we left our doors unlocked, we left our car doors unlocked, and it’s not like that anymore,” Seguin said.
This idea the Valley is not as safe as it once was has also been shared by Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, who blamed unruly teens for a recent rash of thefts and acts of vandalism in the Valley.
Among Kirwan’s ideas was that the city should begin carding and monitoring teens who take the bus to Valley East in the evening.
“I just shook my head, and said this isn’t something you can do,” Seguin said. “We live in a free nation, but there’s something you can do, and that’s being actively involved in your community and trying to protect people.”
If elected on Oct. 24, Seguin said he would work to get the Citizens on Patrol funding reinstated and for the city to provide funding to police to allow for additional police patrols in the Valley.
Although city council as a whole has limited say in how the police budget is configured beyond the total municipal contribution figure, two members of city council sit on the decision-making police board, including Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, who currently serves as chair. Sizer did not respond to Sudbury.com’s inquiry in relation to Citizens on Patrol.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.