Cartoon by George Longley
Councillors love to talk about being proactive, and right now, they have a perfect opportunity to be just that.
A recent report on the annual statistics for the city’s municipal law enforcement squad shows that the department is currently keeping up with their workload, but if one looks a little closer, there are signs that things are starting to slip.
The department centres its success around being able to respond to calls in a timely manner, whether that be for parking, garbage or parking related complaints. In 2016, the team was able to meet the desired target time in 93 per cent of cases, that number slipped a single percentage to 92 per cent this year. However, the department also showed a minor slip in calls related to animal enforcement, and took a bigger drop (12 per cent) when it came to refuse complaints.
Director Jerry Conlin points to the sheer increase in the number of calls as the culprit for the drop in meeting service targets, and rightfully so, the numbers more than doubled between 2016 and 2017.
However, this highlights the fact that despite councillors thinking the MLE department is full of bylaw enforcing robots who can tackle an ever growing workload (they haven’t hired more staffers since 2006), they are only human.
This is putting aside the fact that these bylaw officers must be stretched thin with only 23 officers to patrol the entire city and enforce 35 different bylaws. It would be good to check in with these officers to ensure they aren’t working themselves to the bone. However, as a recent audit made quite clear, the City of Oshawa has no real idea of how satisfied staff members are because they haven’t conducted a survey to gauge such feeling in eight years.
With that aside, as we move forward, our city is only going to continue to grow, the calls or only going to continue to increase, and if council doesn’t step in and open the purse strings, the service level targets are only going to continue to drop.
As we enter the summer months, the citizens of Oshawa are going to come out of their winter slumbers, and begin enjoying our parks and recreation spaces.
It’s no secret that with more people on the streets, there will be more opportunities for complaints and more need for bylaw officers. Not to mention the department will be undertaking audits of apartment buildings to look for fire and building code issues as approved in this year’s budget. This is a forward thinking measure, a proactive step to protect tenants.
If council is to continue to be forward thinking and proactive, it will take a deeper look at the bylaw department, check in its staff, and more importantly, hire more staff to police our growing city.