Township victimized by theft and vandalism incidents

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Township vehicles sit parked in the Joel Steele Community Centre parking lot on January 21

This month has been an unfortunate one for the Township of North Dundas in terms of thefts and vandalism. Several incidents have left many North Dundas residents wondering what could possibly motivate such acts of crime. 

In one incident, good Samaritans noticed a vehicle driving erratically and tearing up township property behind the Joel Steele Community Centre in what could be described as an act of “joyriding”. The concerned locals phoned the police. Damages are being assessed and restitution will be sought for the damage done. 

In another incident, a tractor belonging to the township’s recreation and culture department was stolen, but was returned. During the regularly scheduled Council meeting on January 18, Director of Recreation and Culture Meaghan Meerburg explained that greater security for township vehicles is being sought. The cost of this will be included in the 2023 budget proposal for Council to decide whether the expense is worth it. 

Township staff have been working for years to keep vehicles from travelling into the area behind the community centre parking lot, often asking vehicles to leave when they are spotted on the gravel road travelling to one of the baseball diamonds, for example. 

Vandalism is certainly not new for the Township of North Dundas. In September of 2021, incidents of private property being vandalized in Winchester and Chesterville were reported. Two months later, in November of that year, vandals did significant damage to a storage shed that sits beside one of the baseball fields in Winchester, and around the same time, removed a manhole cover on Albert Street which left a dangerous hole. Among other damages which have been done on several occasions over the years at Winchester Public School, a manhole cover in the schoolyard was also removed on one occasion, which could have led to disaster had it not been discovered in time. 

Vandalism in North Dundas has been blamed on a wide range of factors. Some argue that the acts are committed by teenagers who are simply bored and seeking ways to pass the time in the absence of more prosocial recreation opportunities locally. Others argue that some acts of theft may actually be acts of desperation in response to financial hardship, particularly given current high inflation across the country. There are also some who believe that acts of vandalism committed against the township are acts of revenge, though it is unclear why revenge would be sought against the township. 

Councillor Matthew Uhrig weighed in on the recent incidents, telling the Times that the incidents are being handled through proper channels – namely, the Ontario Provincial Police. “Each and every one of these incidents is unfortunate, and not becoming of the North Dundas my family calls home,” said Councillor Uhrig. “Evidently, increased vigilance is necessary from all residents when it comes to property, and how to suitably protect what you own. At the township level, these conversations have already started, and will continue in the lead up to the 2023 budget process.”

Vandalism against township property must be taken seriously because it affects everyone. “North Dundas assets are community assets, and it is of particular importance that council and staff recognize this, and do what is required to keep items and infrastructure free from harm,” added Councillor Uhrig. 

It is not immediately known if the incidents of theft and vandalism are connected, or what motivated them. The Township of North Dundas is encouraging anyone with information to contact the OPP.

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