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St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern speaks during a committee of the whole meeting on Apr. 12, 2023. Image: Facebook video capture/Municipal District of St. Stephen

St. Stephen considers private security patrols

By Brad Perry Apr 17, 2023 | 6:53 AM

St. Stephen is looking at ways to combat a growing crime problem in the border community.

The topic was up for discussion during a council committee of the whole meeting last week.

Jeff Renaud, the community’s chief administrative officer, said a lack of police visibility has led to many challenges for the community.

Local businesses have reported an increase in theft and vandalism, as well as concerns about safety.

Some have been forced to hire security, lock their doors during business hours and change their hours of operation entirely, according to the St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce.

RELATED: Rise in crime prompts action from St. Stephen Chamber

Renaud said he recently contacted a third-party security provider to explore the idea of community patrols.

“They try to work hand-in-glove with the RCMP. They end up as being extra eyes on the ground for the RCMP. They can contact them by radio,” Renaud told councillors on Wednesday.

“It would be a huge improvement to our municipal enforcement capabilities, without a doubt, and a presence. I think that’s a big part that we’re hearing from the community.”

Renaud said they were given a ballpark quote of $105,000 to $125,000 per officer each year. Depending on the level of service the community was looking for, annual costs could easily reach $1 million, he said.

The Municipal District of St. Stephen is already paying about $2.2 million for its RCMP contract, which accounts for nearly 18 per cent of the municipality’s budget.

Would additional patrols make a difference?

While councillors seemed to be on board with the idea of having private security patrols, community members who attended the meeting were not on the same page.

“As much as I like the idea of more authoritative presence in town, the criminals we have now already aren’t scared of the RCMP. Some guy in a car with lights on the top, they’re gonna laugh at him,” said one local business owner.

“Why don’t we get the RCMP to actually perform their stated purpose? It seems like we’re paying a lot of money for absolutely nothing.”

Mayor Allan MacEachern said the municipality has asked the RCMP to have a greater presence in the community.

The extra layer of policing, he said, would be something that the municipality would have control over.

“We’re getting beat up here. We’re hearing all of the complaints, which are valid, and this is the only thing we can do,” said MacEachern.

Support also needed for social programs: councillor

Coun. Emily Rodas said she would be in favour of the additional level of policing, acknowledging it will take “a long time and a lot of conversations at a higher level” to impact change when it comes to the RCMP.

“When a small business calls and says there’s somebody here lingering around and I don’t feel comfortable, the RCMP doesn’t have capacity to do things like that.”

But Rodas, who is a social worker, said she would also like to see the municipality invest in social programs.

She anticipates a further increase in crime over the spring and summer with the warming centre closing.

“We have 63 individuals from urban St. Stephen and surrounding areas who are local to our community and they will be in your backyard. There’s nowhere for them to go at this point,” said Rodas.

“We have to look at it from all angles. If we don’t have the social nets for these people, we’re just investing in protective services but there’s still going to be a huge gap on the other side.”

‘We need to have the data’

Based on the input from council at last week’s meeting, municipal staff will come back to council with potential solutions, said Renaud.

In the meantime, the mayor said it is important for residents and business owners to report any and all incidents to police.

There is money in this year’s provincial budget for 51 new frontline RCMP officers in rural areas, and MacEachern said they want a piece of that.

“For us to get one or a few of those officers, we need to have the data to show it. The data doesn’t collect on Facebook, we have to call,” he said.

You can watch the committee of the whole meeting below or by clicking here.

Committee of the Whole Meeting

Committee discussing topics of the day

Posted by Municipal District of St. Stephen on Wednesday, April 12, 2023


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