Essex Police Board Chair calling for the return of VIP program

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The chair of the Police Services Board in Essex is looking for the return of the Values, Influences & Peers (VIP) programs in local schools following a "concerning" incident over the weekend.

Councillors in Essex discussed the incident, which happened at a youth Optimist dance, at their regular council meeting on Monday night.

The VIP program helps reinforce responsible citizenship, positive social behaviour and community values through a partnership between teachers and police officers.

Ward 2 councillor Kim Verbeek says after Mayor Richard Meloche made a strong statement on the incident, she made an emergency notice of motion asking to send a letter to the school board.

"Requesting that they allow our OPP back in the schools for the VIP program," she continued. "It's not going to fix everything, but the VIP program is a very important program and it's been out of the schools since the COVID-19 pandemic started."

Verbeek actually mentioned the return of the VIP program at last week's board meeting, just a day before the issues at the local dance, due to a rise in bullying in local parks.

"We discussed this, I brought the concerns, because we've been experiencing some significant bullying in our parks. All kinds of vandalism, and the inspector had suggested maybe signage that would educate them that these are chargeable offences. I asked for foot patrols in our parks, because we were already concerned about bully and vandalism, not a clue that something like Friday night would happen."

She says the level of bullying in the community was bad enough, but this incident has gotten people even more concerned.

"As they should be. I'd like to see members of our town council, our OPP, members from the Optimist Club, parents and youth come together to discuss this event. Get clarity on what went down and then make an action plan how to move forward so these types of events don't happen again, ever," she stated.

Verbeek says police are taking steps to address the situation, after reports on Monday that the OPP are asking any witnesses of the incident to come forward as they continue to investigate.

 

- with files from AM800's The Morning Drive