‘It improves road safety’: Ottawa’s police chief supports more photo radar cameras on city streets

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s police chief wants to see more photo radar cameras on city streets, saying the cameras would improve safety on the roads and generate funding to support social services pilot projects taking on calls from police.

There are currently eight photo radar cameras set up in Community Safety Zones in Ottawa, with plans to install 15 more by the end of 2022.

During an interview on CTV News at Six, Chief Peter Sloly said he’s advocated for an expansion of the automated speed enforcement program to crackdown on speeders on Ottawa’s roads.

“First of all it does have an impact on driver behaviour, it improves road safety for all the road users and it produces revenue for the city to reinvest,” said Chief Sloly.

“In fact, they could reinvest some of that money into mental health pilot projects, into social services taking on some of that demand from policing. I’ve actually expressed that at the (Ottawa Police Services Board), and I think it’s something the city needs to give even more serious consideration to.”

Sloly says Ontario’s police chiefs passed a resolution this year requesting every municipality consider expanding the use of automated speed enforcement cameras.

A one-year pilot project of the automated speed enforcement system at eight locations in Ottawa resulted in 101,778 tickets issued for speeding between July 2020 and July 2021, netting $5.4 million in fines for the city.

Revenue generated by the photo radar cameras supports Ottawa’s road safety action plan.

Council approved a plan this fall to install 15 new cameras by the end of 2022, with an additional 15 to 25 cameras a year installed on Ottawa roads during the next term of council.

The Ottawa Police Services Board will vote Monday evening on its $345 million 2022 budget. The budget includes $14.5 million in new funding, and foregoes plans to hire 30 new officers next year.

Police propose spending $400,000 for a call referral program for social services agencies to respond to mental health and addiction calls.

Sloly says police are trying to “find the right balance between providing value for public dollars and delivering that value in a way that people want.”

“People want different policing, they want better policing – some want more, some want less. We’ve tried to find that balance and we think this budget strikes that,” said Sloly Friday evening.

“We’re putting resources into traffic safety – number one issue in every neighbourhood in every ward across the city, every councillor wants that.  We’re trying to provide funding into our most vulnerable sectors; women, partner assault, domestic abuse, and we know that guns and gangs is an ongoing problem in major cities across the country and right here in the nation’s capital,” said the chief.

“So we’re looking for funding to go into those areas, while we’re looking for investments to change the organization and those investments include removing calls for service away from the police and putting it into better service options whether they be city or social service agencies for the not-for-profit sector.”

Some councillors, community organizations and the public have called on police to freeze spending in the 2022 budget, and change the way police respond to calls. Sloly says the discussion about how Ottawa police spend taxpayers’ money is important.

“I think it’s always important for us to have a very healthy debate about any public institution and the funding going into it, and the police shouldn’t be exempt from that in any case in any jurisdiction,” said Sloly.

“It’s a healthy thing to have a good robust budget discussion and a budget build that gets presented and publicly discussed, and that’s what’s been happening. In fact, this year the Ottawa Police Services Board and the police service has gone through the most extensive effort to present a budget as transparently and fully as possibly and to have a healthy debate around it, and that’s a good thing.”

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