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Ticketing scheme could save police cash

Police would have the option of ticketing people for a range of minor offences — instead of laying criminal charges — under a plan that could yield significant savings for the cash-strapped justice system.

The idea has emerged from discussions fostered by the federal government on curbing the rising costs of policing, said Timothy Smith, a spokesman for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

Under the proposal, officers would have the option of ticketing people for offences such as causing a disturbance, public nudity, falsifying an employment record, soliciting prostitution, vagrancy or trespassing.

It builds on a resolution the Chiefs of Police passed last August that would give officers the discretion to issue a ticket under the Contraventions Act for possession of a small amount of cannabis.

"This is all part of the economics of policing initiative and the discussion that's taking place to find ways in which we can more efficiently handle these types of issues," Smith said in an interview.

Last January the federal Public Safety minister, on behalf of provincial and territorial counterparts, hosted a summit on the economics of policing that included officers and chiefs from across the country, government officials and academics.

Officials say the cost of policing is steadily rising — hitting more than $12 billion in 2010 — even though the crime rate is falling. Among the reasons: increases in police officer salaries, higher costs for equipment and fuel, and new challenges such as dealing with people who have mental health issues.

Giving someone a ticket for a relatively minor offence may be "more appropriate" than sending that person to criminal court, a process that "clogs the system up," said Mark Mander, police chief in Kentville, N.S.

Two of Mander's officers recently spent a full day in court and never ended up testifying, said Mander, head of the police chiefs' drug abuse committee.

"But they had to be there, right? We see that with even minor offences, where they're there all day and not having to testify."

He sees the ticketing option as another tool for police.

The Canadian Press

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