Neighbourhood groups in Saint John have made another pitch to bring back community policing.
One Change Saint John and other groups dedicated to the city’s priority neighbourhoods were left reeling when budget cuts led to the reassignment of community police officers in the new year.
“We’re already seeing some of the repercussions of losing community policing,” said Barry Galloway of One Change. Galloway points to theft and drug issues, although he admits there’s no proof the lack of a community police officer is to blame.
The decision to cut back community policing weighs heavy in the police department. “Nobody’s happy about it,” Chief John Bates said. “It’s absolutely counter-intuitive to me to take the action that we had to do.”
Bates points out those priority neighbourhoods continue to be served and there remains one officer in charge of community policing in the city.
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For Galloway, that’s not the same thing.
“When you have someone that’s actually embedded in your neighbourhood, they know the residents, they know all the programs, they know what exists in the neighbourhood.”
A presentation had been made to the Saint John Board of Police Commissioners in hopes of restoring community policing, among other things.
Galloway says he is optimistic something can be done, adding he knows the (police) commission is spending a lot of time trying to figure something out.
It appears a solution may lie somewhere in the middle, at least for now.
“(Hopefully we can) at least liaise with and deliver a model of policing to those priority neighbourhoods that’s going to be responsive and impactful,” Bates said. “I’d love to go back to where we were and maybe someday we will. But at this juncture, it’s going to be a tough row to hoe.”