Moncton spends $1M to double community officers in response to safety fears
Moncton will double its number of community officers in an effort to crack down on homelessness, drug use and crime that councilors say will not address fundamental issues around mental health and mental health issues. substance addiction.
It was among several largely enforcement-focused measures approved late Monday that will see spending rise by $1.1 million this year.
It was the latest in a series of efforts and expenditures aimed at solving social problems and crime.
The nearly three-hour debate saw councilors worry about the criminalization of homelessness, the need to meet residents’ demands for action and the cost.
“If we make life on our streets difficult, eventually they may want to go somewhere other than Moncton,” the councilman said. Dave Steve, a pastor, spoke about the homeless.
« I’m all about love and acceptance and forgiveness, but we as a city provide places to go. And at some point we have to say this is stolen property and that it’s a land you can’t live on. I think that’s where we are today. »
Councilors voted a series of votes on Monday, although most items received multiple downvotes for various reasons.
Council approved increasing the City’s Community Officers roster from nine to 18 at a cost of $1,019,213. The cost includes vehicles, uniforms, training and equipment.
The city created the Community Officers last year under a contract with the Corps of Commissionaires NB & PEI Division Inc.
They use municipal vehicles to patrol the city and respond to tent sites, can collect discarded needles, and can issue tickets for bylaw violations.
Although the city has asked the province to change the legislation to give them powers similar to those of police officers, there is no indication when or if that change might take place.
Marc Landry, the city manager, told council that the city will work immediately to fill the new positions with the contractor, but it may take several months to have a fully trained and equipped complement.
Com. Shawn Crossman said earlier he couldn’t support hiring more officers because it wouldn’t address the mental health and addictions issues believed to be at the root of the crime.
« In order to support their addiction and mental health issues, they rob residents sitting there [in council chambers] and people in the building I live in, » Crossman said.
« And they’re robbing everyone across town to support their mental health and addiction issues. »
Monday’s votes will also see the city spend an additional $70,000 on contractors to clean up tent sites, and an additional $20,000 on communications related to social issues and the collection of discarded needles.
Camera study rejected
Councilors refused to spend $40,000 to hire a consultant to study the installation of security cameras in « problem neighborhoods ».
Moncton resident Ryan Hillier told council in a presentation at the start of the meeting that even the homeless are members of the community and the proposed actions could criminalize homelessness and send people back to a overburdened justice system.
Kim Christie-Gallant, whose petition earlier this year led to Monday’s votes, also spoke at the start of the meeting and called the plan insufficient.
“Ultimately, we believe the plan is vague, poorly written, a rapid marketing response to complex crisis-level issues, which does not provide concrete solutions or a sense of urgency to facilitate change,” she said.
In an interview after the votes, Christie-Gallant said she remains disappointed and that a citizens’ committee will continue to pressure governments to address the issues.
Funding for this year’s new spending will come from an operating reserve account, money already collected from taxpayers, although staff have warned that service cuts or higher tax rates may be needed in the years to come.
The need for a tax rate increase will depend on a variety of factors, including an increase in the city’s tax base due to rising property values.
A police study in progress
Moncton city councilors also voted unanimously on Monday to award a policing study to Perivale + Taylor Consulting at a cost of $265,707.
The study will compare the costs and benefits of moving from Codiac Regional RCMP to another service and the number of officers required.
It is expected to be completed before the summer of 2023. The review is in partnership with Dieppe and Riverview, which are also monitored by the Codiac RCMP.