Losing My Cool - the follow-up

I recently wrote a piece about losing my temper with the owner of a high performance vehicle in our neighbourhood.  Much to my surprise, the article ended up having hundreds of readers.   As I had promised to do a follow-up article based on my discussions with authorities the following day, I have just received answers to a series of questions that I had posed to Jennifer MacMullen, Public Information Officer, RCMP Support and Bylaw Services.

A word of thanks to my friend Greg Scarborough, who was my initial point of contact.  We had a great discussion and I felt way more informed than I had been previously.

1.  What advice would Bylaw Services have in engaging neighbours about an issue regarding excessive vehicle noise or inappropriate driving habits in residential areas?  I assume that losing one's temper is never a good approach?

There are many resources available for residents of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo: Victim Services, Public Education through RCMP and Bylaw Services, as well as Safe Community Wood Buffalo. Most organizations have the capacity to address concerns in a community forum. We are all vulnerable when found in a highly charged state of emotions. The best of us can “lose it”. It is what we do after the emotional outbreak that indicates whether there is a real concern or just a bad day.

2.  When reasonable communication attempts don't result in a change in behaviour, what is the best way for citizens to work with either Bylaw or RCMP to lay charges? How do you move from one person's word over another to "a reasonable chance of conviction?"

If your attempt with communication fails, please contact the appropriate authorities to address the concern.  Bylaw Officers primarily address issues specifically related to municipal bylaws.  RCMP Officers primarily address issues which fall under federal and provincial legislation. 

For anyone calling in a complaint it is important to be able to provide details for the incident(s).  Details such as date and time of the occurrence, make/model/colour of vehicle, license plate of vehicle, and a description of the occupant(s) would be very beneficial. An officer will be sent to investigate the complaint.  The officer will look at the preponderance of the evidence and make an informed decision. It is ultimately up to a court to decide if that evidence is sufficient.

3.  Apparently, dealing with a complaint regarding noise created by a high-performance vehicle and perceived dangerous driving or excessive speed fall under two very different pieces of legislation and authority.  Can you explain?  It's important for the public to understand who to call in trying to resolve these kinds of matters.

Noise and excessive speed do fall under two different pieces of legislation and authority. 

We will address the noise portion first.  The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo does have a bylaw know as “The Noise Bylaw.”  Part 4 of this bylaw addresses motor vehicle noise.  Section 8 (2) states that if a person operates a vehicle of any type on a street in a Residential District at any time of day or night in such a way as to unduly disturb the residents of the street in the Residential District in which he is operating the vehicle, he shall be guilty of an offence.  When an instance such as this occurs, the best way to address this is to contact the Bylaw Services complaint line at 780.788.4200.

Excessive speed is addressed by the Traffic Safety Act which is provincial legislation.  Standard speed limits are included in section 106 of the Traffic Safety Act.  In section (c) it is stated that 50 kilometers per hour is the maximum speed limit for a highway located within an urban area.  The best way to address this issue is by calling the RCMP complaint line at 780.788.4000. That being said erratic driving if it can be articulated well by a resident may be sufficient for RCMP to lay charges. There must be a willing witness and one who will if required attend court and give evidence.

4.  Have you noticed that in blocks where the residents engage with one another, either through block parties, neighbourhood watch programs or other mechanisms that issues like this tend to take care of themselves, or not exist at all?  What advice would you have for inspiring stronger connectivity between neighbours?

Absolutely: It is a tradition that dates as far back as the gathering of the first communities. Where people are engaged in each others' lives through social and community minded events there is less likely to be those who will stray form the set norms. As well these communities become eyes and ears for policing services.

5.  If residents experience similar frustrations with motor vehicle owners and operators in the neighbourhood and want advice on how to most appropriately respond, who should they contact?

Bylaw Services along with the RCMP have joined to create the Wood Buffalo Police Service. Part of our ongoing commitment to the community is to make available our resources for the betterment of the community. Bylaw Service has recently announced a program which will bring officers closer to the community in which they work. If there is a need or desire to speak with an officer on a more personal level please let us know. We are willing and able to address concerns from our residents.

Many thanks to Jennifer and all the other fine folks at the RCMP and Bylaw Services who contributed to crafting these responses.  At the end of the day, it is important to become informed about our rights and the appropriate steps we can take when things go a little off track, or in this case, get a little too loud.  I hope this provides some clarity as to your options.


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