In some rural municipalities, policing is often a big topic of discussion, according to the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick.
Dan Murphy, its executive director, said it is up there with topics like municipal reform and health care, but recently, it has taken centre stage.
Residents in McAdam held a meeting with the Public Safety minister Bill Hogan and some RCMP top-ranking officers to address the community’s concerns about ongoing crime.
“As you can tell from the number of people here, there (are) concerns,” one resident said during the meeting to the panel. “We don’t need excuses. This isn’t your first appearance here. So, when can we actually expect you guys to come back and actually have a real action plan?”
Crimes have been ongoing in McAdam and the community alleges a lack of police presence and a lack of response when they called for incidents that happen within the village.
The RCMP said it is grappling with resource issues and recruitment decline.
New Brunswick RCMP Commanding Officer DeAnna Hill said on Monday that she has never seen a decline in recruitment like what it is seeing in recent months.
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She said it may not be possible to expect the visibility police have had in rural communities in the past with the current strain on resources.
The union representing the RCMP in Canada says members are continually being asked to do more with less.
“COVID-19 amplified those challenges — which include a decline in recruitment applications, increased workloads, mental health impacts, and reduced staffing levels across the country,” the National Police Federation said in an email statement.
In a report submitted by the union to the federal government, it said there was a 17 per cent decline in applications to join the force.
“In addition, the RCMP is projecting an even further decline in applicants for this fiscal year. This increasing decline must be urgently addressed to ensure sustainable police resources and ongoing public safety,” the report said.
It said national attrition rates and hard vacancy rates for the same period creates a “deficit of new officers.”
“While FTE (full-time equivalent) positions are forecast to increase in future years, this does not mean the RCMP can staff them,” the report said. “Too often, our members shoulder additional responsibilities resulting from lack of resources further impacting their own mental health and well-being.”
In McAdam, Mayor Ken Stannix said it pays about $270,000 for RCMP services out of its small $1.4 million budget.
Murphy said many municipalities do spend a lot on policing and solutions are top of mind for everyone.
“At our AGM last fall, our members passed a resolution asking the government to review the policing model in New Brunswick,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “So, it’s something we continue to work with the government on to try and see what other options might exist in terms of policing.”
He said there is no clear quick solution.
It isn’t as simple as municipalities creating its own force, he said.
“I think we’ve got to get creative to address those issues because policing is one of the core services that municipalities offer.”
Murphy believes the federal and provincial governments both have to support a look at how policing is operated and funded as part of the solution.
“We need a local police solution, but it has to be funded by the province and the feds too, so we can’t be the only ones covering that cost.”
Stannix did say the village had a municipal police force before but a major incident happened there many years ago and special police forces were required that nearly bankrupted the community.
On Wednesday, Premier Blaine Higgs said he sympathizes with the communities experiencing increases in crime.
He suggested there be a look at how various levels of policing, including Justice and Public Safety officers, could work together to improve the level of service to rural communities.
In February, Higgs separated the two files of Justice and Public Safety. He appointed Bill Hogan to role of Minister of Public Safety.
At the time, Hogan said he was given no specific mandate but did have conversations with Higgs about combating drug crimes and drug-driven crime.
“They talk about crime, they talk about drug-driven crime. The premier and I have discussed it extensively. I have a planned approach to start to deal with this,” he said in February.