Sackville businessman Kevin Read is questioning whether the town is getting good value for the more than $1.8 million it spends every year on the RCMP.
“My main question is if we’re paying this kind of money, why everybody in town doesn’t feel safe right now,” Read said Monday during town council’s public question period.
He referred to recent fires that destroyed three houses just outside town limits in Upper Sackville threatening the lives of Brian and Marlene Doncaster who were asleep in their home on Pond Shore Road when it went up in flames in the early morning hours of June 5th.
“When you have something in a line of arson, attempted murder,” Read said, “and it takes an hour for RCMP to respond to something like that when the office is right here,” he added, pointing downward to indicate the RCMP offices on the main floor of the town hall.
“There is many, many nights in this town, there’s nobody on duty,” he said, adding that he’d like to know why the RCMP detachment is not staffed at all times.
Read said that when he had an accident some years ago in downtown Sackville, he waited 25 minutes for the RCMP to come from Memramcook.
Mayor Mesheau and CAO Jamie Burke responded that under Sackville’s Municipal Policing Service Agreement with the RCMP, up to 10 officers are assigned to the town’s detachment.
Burke said he would have to check with Sgt. Paul Gagné on whether there is any data on how long it takes the detachment to respond to specific calls.
“I’m just assuming here, which we probably shouldn’t be doing, but it all depends on the circumstances of the day and where their resources need to be mobilized,” Burke said.
“We can check with Sgt. Gagné and see if there’s any details with respect to those individual response times within the municipal boundary,” he added.
“Thank you for your answer, but I don’t accept that answer,” Read replied.
“We are paying for protection and response times,” he added. “Three hundred and sixty days of this year at least, there should be one person on call and we should have a response within 15 minutes to anything because that’s what a taxpayer is paying for.”
Mesheau repeated that the town needs to check with the RCMP.
“You’ve indicated that there’s no response time, there’s no coverage at certain times,” the mayor said.
“That’s not information that necessarily has been made available to this council or to staff,” he added. “We need the opportunity to ask the sergeant in charge to provide that information in order to get clarification.”
Read said later that although he’s concerned about the fires in Upper Sackville, his main point is that the RCMP should be available in town at all times to serve and protect vulnerable people here.
Praise for RCMP
Meantime, a resident who lives in the area where the three houses burned, says he has nothing but praise for the RCMP even though they did arrive after the fire department when the Doncaster house burned.
“I was worrying about people getting burnt in the house and not worrying about when the police were coming, it was quite hectic here, five o’clock in the morning,” the resident said in a telephone interview.
Warktimes has decided not to use the person’s name because of ongoing threats and safety concerns.
“A lot of people got a hate on for the RCMP, but we don’t,” the resident said. “We’ve dealt with them a lot between the fires and all this stuff going on.”
The resident says the RCMP presence in the area, which is outside town limits, has been constant even though their resources are stretched thin.
“You get into the middle of what we’ve been through in the last year, you gain a little more respect for them, they’re doing their best, I know they are.”
The resident had a brick thrown through a window in April and since then has installed shatterproof glass along with cameras, emergency lights and burglar alarms.
“For awhile, I’d go to bed at eight and get up at midnight,” the resident said while another person in the house would go to bed at midnight so that someone would always be awake.
“What they’ve been doing is throwing a cocktail through the window and when it hits the floor, the gas and fire just go everywhere,” the resident says.
“The police stayed out here for 10 or 12 days every night watching our house and they’ve been giving 110% most of the time, I can’t say anything bad about them.”
The RCMP did not return a call from Warktimes seeking more information about police staffing levels and response times.
For the latest CHMA story on the fires in Upper Sackville, click here.