Moncton officials promised to act on 22 recommendations stemming from a series of community meetings on crime, drug use and homelessness in the city's west end neighbourhood.
The list was outlined Thursday evening at Harrison Trimble High School following three other meetings in which residents aired concerns about crime, drug use and homelessness.
Many of the items focus on increased policing and enforcement, including clearing tent sites of homeless people within three days of being reported to the city.
"I want to say that I heard you and that council heard you," Mayor Dawn Arnold told the crowd of about 80 people. "We empathize with your frustrations and support your willingness to find solutions."
The meeting was attended by senior Codiac Regional RCMP members, 10 of the 11 members of city council, several city staff members and Moncton South PC MLA Greg Turner.
The meetings followed a petition started by Kim Christie-Gallant, who told reporters after Thursday's meeting she was happy council and the RCMP recognize there's a problem. However, she said she was looking for timelines with the recommendations.
"So as of right now, it's still promises," Christie-Gallant told reporters. "And political promises sometimes follow through, sometimes don't."
Dereck Slattery, who made a presentation to city council in 2021 calling for action, attended Thursday's meeting and said in an interview that residents are "sick of talk."
"A lot of the residents are getting to almost a boiling point with things, where, if they have to be confronting these people on their own, it's going to put people in very, very dangerous positions," Slattery said. "So this stuff needs to be acted on right now."
A series of similar meetings about similar issues took place in 2019. Some of the recommendations echo those issued last year by a task force created by the business community. Asked what would be different this time, Arnold told reporters the city is taking it "very seriously."
"This is a top priority," she said. "You saw all of council here tonight, and this is this is something that needs to be fixed and we're on it."
Some items require increased spending. People at the meeting were told the costs were being analyzed, and some recommendations may not be implemented until next year. Arnold said the city has a $6 million operating budget reserve account, though around a quarter of it has already been spent on extra snow clearing costs.
Mike Randall, co-owner of a communications firm and co-chair of the city's homelessness steering committee, read out the recommendations and spoke about some of the work already underway to address them.
Randall said the provincial cabinet is awaiting a report on the Saint John mental health court due later this month to weigh creating a similar court in Moncton that's been sought for years.
Randall said the RCMP are looking at requesting budget approval for more officers, something that requires approval from councils in Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview. Codiac is budgeted to have 147 officers, up from 139 in 2018, but has previously fallen below the target for a variety of reasons.
The communities have launched a review of policing services.
Supt. Benoit JoletteCodiac the RCMP's acting commanding officer, Supt. Benoit Jolette, told reporters a hypothetical increase of 30 officers would entail other increases like equipment, vehicles and administrative staff.
Attendees were told a new RCMP community policing unit office on Main Street, expected to be open this month, now is only due to open sometime in the fall.
Randall said a citizens on patrol program has 13 new volunteers following a recent barbecue in the neighbourhood.
Increased attention on scrap yards
Randall said the province's Department of Public Safety is also looking at changing regulations related to selling catalytic converters and precious metals to scrap yards.
Thefts of copper wire and catalytic converters from vehicles led to calls for crackdowns on scrap yards that buy the materials.
"I know that's a big one," Turner told the crowd after mentioning scrap yards. "We talked about that with the minister of public safety last week in the mayor's office here in Moncton, and there's things that we can do better, quite frankly. We're going to be committed to that."
Arnold, asked about how many of the actions are enforcement related, told reporters those services are provincial responsibilities and the city has long advocated for improved services.
The 22 recommendations were split up by who would be responsible for tackling them.
Codiac Regional RCMP:
Increase presence of police officers in neighbourhoods
Improve customer service for 911 calls
Develop a resident and business reporting platform for immediate action
Implement a community policing office on Main Street
Increase police presence in schools
Enforce panhandling bylaws
Improve reporting on organized crime and drug related offences/arrests
Increase participation in the Citizens on Patrol program
Install signs promoting Citizens on Patrol in city neighbourhoods
City of Moncton:
Increase the presence of bylaw enforcement officers in neighbourhoods
Improve communications and education on the discarded needle reporting process
Refrain from applying the shopping cart bylaw fees and address the issue of shopping cart visibility
Ensure tent sites are removed within 24 to 72 hours
Investigate potential use of cameras in 'problem neighbourhoods'
Clean up garbage and debris downtown
Ongoing and improved community engagement and reporting
Request that CN Rail improve security along train track corridors
Province of New Brunswick:
Establish mental health protocols related to the court system
Tougher repercussions for repeat offenders
Greater accountability for scrap yards
Address challenges at shelters
Chamber of commerce task force:
Include more community members working within the Task Force on Homelessness and Downtown Security