According to a graphic posted on the Town of Sackville Facebook page, “policing services”and “transparency” were the top two areas needing improvement in a survey based on the opinions of 323 people. (The town is now seeking more feedback in a follow-up survey that closes on August 14th.)
Judging from concerns raised repeatedly at town council, it appears that Sackville residents complain most about the RCMP’s perceived failure to enforce traffic laws such as speed limits.
And residents seem concerned too about how hard it is to reach the Sackville detachment by phone to report incidents, especially during evenings and weekends.
Those issues came up again during Monday’s council meeting.
Councillor Sabine Dietz said she hoped council would receive a report next month about what’s being done about speeding on Pond Shore Road.
She also pointed to ATVs travelling illegally on streets in Middle Sackville.
“Honestly, over the 15 years that I’ve now lived here, it’s increased considerably,” she said.
“There’s a number of people who go slow and they are there for work, I know that because I know where they’re going, but most of them are recreational and they’re not going slow.”
Dietz said that she tried repeatedly to report incidents to the RCMP in Sackville, but would get diverted to Shediac on weekends and then not hear back from police, or if she did, the response would take at least a day or two.
“We need to know who to call when and how quickly will this actually get followed up because I gave up, it’s too slow,” she added.
Councillor Andrew Black said the issue of getting through to the RCMP was discussed recently during a liaison meeting on public safety.
He added that Sgt. Paul Gagné, head of the Sackville detachment, said the RCMP did not have a lot of staff for answering calls, but residents could get in touch with Larry Tremblay, Commanding Officer of the Mounties’ New Brunswick division with their concerns.
Black noted that town staff were already in touch with Tremblay and would be discussing the issue with him soon.
He also reported on the RCMP response to complaints about ATVs on streets in Middle Sackville.
“The RCMP know about it, they monitor it and it’s their opinion that for the most part, people who use ATVs on public roads, even though they shouldn’t be, are doing it reasonably safely.”
Black added that the RCMP feel people should call them with a complaint if they see ATVs operating unsafely.
The Sackville detachment’s latest quarterly report places enhancing road safety “by targeting high-risk areas” at the top of its list of priorities.
The detachment has 10 full-time members, but it’s not clear how many are available to carry out that top priority at any given time.
The contract for RCMP policing services, signed by the town and the federal minister of public safety, states that members will not be replaced when they’re attending training courses or off on vacation or sick leave unless their illness lasts more than 30 consecutive days. [Article 5.5]
The contract also specifies that the federal government will pay 30% of Sackville’s policing costs, a subsidy designed to keep them relatively low.
Annual policing costs in Sackville are $352 per capita, well below the national average of $423 in 2019.
The $1,876,721 that the town has allocated to policing this year is the single largest item in its operating budget, but accounts for only 16% of the total $11,465,061 that the town is spending.
By contrast, annual policing costs in Amherst, which has its own police force, are $4,554,907 or $483 per capita and 24.5% of the town’s operating budget.
Sackville’s costs are expected to rise now that the union representing RCMP members has negotiated its first contract with the federal government, but so far, no details have been released.
RCMP figures show that a constable now earns between $53,000 and $86,110, while a staff sergeant’s pay can range from $109,000 to just over $112,000.
Big city police officers in Canada, who have been unionized for decades, earn substantially more.