Students and schools in the Municipality of Grey Highlands are seeing an increased police presence after a new School and Community Engagement Officer position was established with the Grey-Bruce Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment earlier this fall.
“It's been really good to get back into the schools with this enhancement and have one-on-one time in the classroom,” said OPP Constable Nick Wilson, during a Grey Highlands Police Services Board meeting held earlier today.
In September, the Grey-Bruce OPP department welcomed Wilson to the new position of school and community engagement officer. And despite a slow start due to COVID-19, he has been actively introducing himself to the student body.
“Once I was allowed to go back into the schools, almost every day of the week has been taken up with either a presentation or a safety plan review,” Wilson said.
Since coming on board, Wilson has engaged with Grey Highlands Secondary School, Osprey Central School and Macphail Memorial School with lockdown drills, fire drills, and safety plans.
“The majority of the presentations have been kids programs in the elementary schools and various presentations at the high school for things like consent, and bullying, etc,” Wilson said.
He also held a meeting with Hanley Institute to discuss police involvement in an after-school mentoring program for students in Grade 7, 8, and 9.
“There's a couple of after-school youth mentoring programs that are starting to get up and running, one specifically in Flesherton that we've been involved in, so that'll be going forward as well,” he added.
Along with regularly scheduled visits to the schools, Wilson also responds to school and youth-related calls.
“From September until today, for example, I, with the enhancement position, looked after 82 calls. I would say the majority of those coming from the schools,” Wilson said.
This month alone, Wilson says he has responded to 32 calls for service just from Grey Highlands Secondary School.
The OPP September/October detachment report outlines a number of issues Wilson responded to, which included an investigation into an occurrence with drugs regarding possible drug trafficking between high school students; assisting school staff with a mental health incident affecting a youth; and an effective response regarding a threats complaint against staff and students.
“We can really see when a municipality has a community engagement officer, it does reap some significant benefits,” added OPP Constable Nigel Heels.
Wilson says that moving forward, he hopes to establish a regular routine at the schools, even creating an office in some locations, so that the students know when and where they can find him.
“I'm in the process right now of working with the high school to formulate a plan,” he said. “In the meantime, I am there every day, and if not every day, at least three, four times a week.”