With crime on the rise, Springhill looks for solutions

·2 min read
Many people who attended a meeting in Springhill on Thursday night say their community is no longer safe.  (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Many people who attended a meeting in Springhill on Thursday night say their community is no longer safe. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

A road sign says Springhill, N.S., is a safe community, but many of the 2,600 residents might disagree.

A crowd of 150 filled a meeting room Thursday to address a recent crime wave in the area.

"This isn't about finding answers tonight," said Heather Gibbons, the Springhill resident who organized the meeting. "This is about trying to find solutions down the road because this isn't something we can fix overnight."

Springhill used to have its own police force when it had town status. But, since 2015, it has been policed by a small RCMP detachment of seven members that is not staffed 24 hours a day.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

Many people who spoke at the meeting say their police coverage is not as good as it used to be.

Murray Scott, the mayor of the Municipality of Cumberland, attended the meeting. Scott is a former Springhill police officer who went on to become Nova Scotia's justice minister after he was voted in as the MLA for the riding of Cumberland South.

"It used to be a 24-hour service so there would always be at least two officers on at all times both day and night," said Scott. "Today we have 27 RCMP officers paid for in the entire municipality, which is the second largest municipality in the province."

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

The large geographic area is part of the problem for people in Springhill.

Residents said response times to calls aren't quick enough. Numerous residents said there is a growing methamphetamine problem with drug users often walking around the community looking to steal.

"It's overwhelming the amount of petty crime and break and enters, thefts," said Gibbons. "I've never seen anything like it."

One resident stated more drug addiction support is needed.

"We need resources and education to combat it, and if we don't get that then we are just shooting ourselves in the foot because it's not going to get better."

Three RCMP officers attended the meeting.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

"I would say Springhill in the Cumberland District is our busiest community," said Staff Sgt. Craig Learning, the Cumberland District RCMP commander. "But a lot of people just aren't reporting and we need people to report these crimes if they want some sort of timely action taken."

This week the Municipality of Cumberland announced upcoming public meeting dates as part of a police review it announced this spring. One of those meetings, aimed at getting public engagement from community members, will be in Springhill on Sept. 15.

Gibbons said some small committees will be formed as the community continues to explore ways to address crime.