There will be an increased police presence on Main Street in Moncton as a result of a partnership between the Codiac Regional RCMP and city officials on Thursday.
Eric Larose, the manager of Codiac’s Community Policing Unit, says the idea for a ‘crime prevention awareness’ initiative was sparked by complaints from local businesses.
As a result, member of the Codiac RCMP and a City of Moncton By-Law enforcement officer are making regular foot patrols through downtown as part of the project that has become more formal in recent weeks.
In an emailed statement from Anne Poirier Basque, the executive director of Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc., concerns were raised following a 2018 survey.
“Some of the challenges identified of doing business in the downtown were vagrancy, aggressive panhandling, and increased drug use creating public safety issues,” the statement says.
One of the focuses for the partnership is to connect people to appropriate resources and services in the city, Larose said.
“We have a lot of people here that have been relocated from ‘tent city,’ so we’re trying to approach those without residence or the homeless, and try to provide them with advice on services available,” he said.
They’re trying to make sure business owners and residents feel safe, but they will continue to enforce laws.
“On some occasions, some people are going to be breaching their conditions or we’re going to be witnessing criminal acts and we’re going to have to act on that,” Larose told Global News in a phone interview.
For loitering and panhandling concerns, “the person could be provided with a ticket or a notice to appear in court,” from the by-law officer, Larose said.
Charles Léger, a city councillor for Ward 2, met with local businesses that are becoming increasingly frustrated with the ongoing concerns.
“They have some suggestions around lighting,” he says. “Certainly, there’s positive feedback related to the beginning of the foot patrols with the RCMP and by-law enforcement.”
The still-delayed House of Nazareth’s new shelter on Albert Street is expected to help with mental health and addiction services.
Léger says he is encouraging people to talk to their MLA’s about mental health concerns in the region because it falls under provincial jurisdiction.
Joe Vasseur, the manager of a local business, says it’s frustrating to still be talking about the same issues at hand.
“There’s got to be an actual plan in place because this problem has been getting worse and worse for three years in a row now,” he says. “There’s definitely drug use occurring; you see the after-effects of it. People walk around like zombies, there’s no doubt about that; there’s definitely an increased drug problem.”
But Charlie Burrell, the president of The Humanity Project and a homeless advocate, also says while he supports a larger police presence, it’s a bigger issue when you’re talking about mental health and drug addictions.
“We can keep pointing people to the organizations in the city, but if we don’t have the proper resources, our hands are kind of tied at a certain point,” he says. “Moving people who are homeless along does nothing to solve the problem.”
Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc.’s latest survey asked questions of local businesses about increased costs as a result of vandalism, theft, security measures and more. Results will be shared with the business community once it’s completed.
As for the crime prevention initiative, Larose says that will be re-evaluated in two months after the pilot program is complete.