Police office examines collision center issues raised by towing company

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The owner of a Sarnia towing company is concerned about the fallout from the majority of collisions filtered out by the city’s reporting center.

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Gary Vandenheuvel, owner of Preferred Towing, wrote a letter to Mike Bradley, city mayor and chairman of the police services board, highlighting several issues. Bradley said at Thursday’s Police Services Board meeting that he wanted staff to respond with a report.

“Because it raises some issues regarding the collision center, and I think they need to be addressed,” Bradley said.

Owen Lockhart, deputy chief of Sarnia, said police can make a report, but added that they had not received negative comments about the installation from the public or any other towing service.

“It’s fantastic, actually,” Lockhart said.

One of the issues Vandenheuvel raised was the lack of charges laid after the accidents, as officers witness fewer incidents, leaving insurance companies to determine who was at fault.

“It’s like letting the fox take care of the chicken coop,” he wrote.

Vandenheuvel also raised concerns about vehicles showing ‘major structural damage’ ranging from accident scenes to the Christina Street North facility – it opened in July 2019 – and putting the public at risk.

“We are sometimes called by the reporting center to retrieve them because they are not in good driving condition,” he wrote.

Mike Stark, board member and city councilor, called it “excellent”.

“It tells me that we have to find the balance between all of this,” he said.

Stark added that he had read the letter “with interest” but said he felt Vandenheuvel “in some respects” had a conflict of interest on the matter.

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Vandenheuvel, whose company appears regularly on the reality show Heavy Rescue: 401, also wrote that its staff were at greater risk of having to clean up debris at accident sites without an officer to slow or direct traffic.

“I don’t like the fact that the safety of my employees is at risk,” he said.

Lockhart said the collision center frees up time for officers on the road to deal with other issues.

“It’s actually a service to the community,” he said.

Stark said he agreed with the deputy chief that the center is helping with the deployment of the workforce.

“But on the other side of the coin, the last thing we need is to move vehicles that are not fit to be moved,” he said, “and that’s apparently happening, as evidenced by towing from the police station.

“So I think a report needs to look at this whole mix of priorities – and security concerns, of course.”

Staff will come back with a report.

The next police council meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 28.

@ObserverTerry

tbridge@postmedia.com


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