Fear over rural crime prompts community pushback in Halton Hills


Published April 9, 2024 at 5:21 pm

Halton police crime invasion

Growing fear about crime has rural residents of Halton Hills looking to police and public officials for answers.

Many residents who live in the areas outside of Acton and Georgetown fear the crime that neighbouring Milton complains about as well as “unwelcome” visitors from Brampton and Mississauga are putting them at risk.

An incident last month in the community of Ballinafad has particularly upset residents who often feel helpless because of their remote location.

In that March 9 incident, four men smashed their way into a home and beat and robbed one of the residents. One of the culprits was armed with a gun.

“We’re frightened, we feel like we are sitting ducks out here,” said a Ballinafad resident who asked that his name not be used for this article over fears he might be targeted. “These guys know we are isolated, that nobody is around so they feel we are easy marks. We aren’t used to this. I lock my doors but it really doesn’t matter…they will smash their way in if they have to.”

Rural residents say that increased media exposure has brought the stolen vehicle epidemic to the forefront and point to Halton crime statistics that show more than 1,500 vehicles were stolen last year. That issue is plaguing Milton and those in Halton Hills have taken note.

Also, residents say, is the fear — perceived or real — that gang members from Brampton and Mississauga view rural communities as “easy pickings” as local home and vehicle owners may not be as vigilant in crime prevention as are their urban neighbours.

A police official said that Halton Hills is still one of the safest communities in the country but acknowledged that a few high-profile crimes such as break-ins can put people on edge.

“It doesn’t matter if crime hasn’t increased, if the fear is real we have to help the public deal with it,” the police official said.

Regional Councillor Clark Sommerville, who represents Acton as well as sections of rural communities in Halton Hills, helped put together the public meeting that will take place April 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Acton Arena. He said there has been enough of a public outcry to justify a response.

Sommerville said that residents have reached out to him and fellow Ward 2 Councillors Jason Brass and Joseph Racinsky.

“The rural areas do present unique challenges,” Sommerville said. “In rural areas, there is some distance between you and your neighbour so it’s not easy for anyone to spot that something may be happening right next door.”

He said it is important that residents take steps to make themselves less of a target, if possible.

“It can be as simple as locking your doors or letting your neighbours know when you are away and asking them to keep an eye on things,” Sommerville said. “These steps may not solve all crimes but they can help.”

He said during the public meeting Halton police would be available to talk about programs such as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), an approach based on crime reduction through altering the outside design of your home or business to make it less inviting to bad guys. Police will also be available for one-on-one discussions.

Sommerville said he does not yet have a sense of how fearful people are about crime but acknowledged that the community has changed in the last 10 years.

In the past, he said, people didn’t have to worry about their neighbours. Now the fear comes from those from other communities who travel to Halton Hills to steal cars and break into homes.

“People are more cautious, and they should be,” Sommerville said adding that recent crimes have led to a renewed interest in safety and policing. “It used to be you could go out for the day, leave your front door unlocked, and not have to worry about it. That’s changed.”


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