Moncton councillors seek special meeting to debate public safety plan

·3 min read
Moncton councillors say they want a special public council meeting next month to consider recommendations to address concerns about crime, drug use and homelessness.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Moncton councillors say they want a special public council meeting next month to consider recommendations to address concerns about crime, drug use and homelessness. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Moncton councillors want a special meeting next month to vote on a series of recommendations stemming from recent meetings in the city's west end  about crime, drug use and homelessness.

"There's an expectation of citizens," Coun. Charles Léger said during a council meeting Monday evening. "And I would like to see something presented with recommendations, with a dollar figure, and it will allow council to put the action plan in debate and have a decision."

Léger asked for a special council meeting July 11 to debate and vote on measures within municipal jurisdiction. He called for a special meeting so that it's the only item on the agenda and because the next scheduled meetings are July 18 and Aug. 16.

The request was made during the first council meeting since an "action plan" with 22 recommendations was released Thursday. The document compiled ideas raised by residents of the city's west end during three meetings.

But the document had no timelines or money committed to implement them, something residents were critical of after it was released.

Eight of the items are within the city's responsibility, including clearing tent sites within 24 to 72 hours. Others would affect the city's budget and require approvals from other governments, such as boosting the number of Codiac Regional RCMP officers.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Léger's request was echoed by other councillors.

"I think it's important, we need to appease the citizens," Coun. Paulette Thériault said. However, Thériault said the recommendations are only "Band-Aids" that don't solve poverty.

Marc Landry, the city manager, said staff will try to have something ready for council to consider in the coming weeks.

Later in the meeting, council voted down a resolution by Coun. Daniel Bourgeois on public safety.

The two-part resolution called for a council member to consult various groups and prepare a report by July 31 on what steps can be taken to improve safety.

Councillors who spoke against the resolution said the first item would duplicate the action plan released last week. Bourgeois agreed, saying his motion was drafted weeks before the public meetings and action plan. Procedurally, it couldn't be debated until Monday, though.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

The resolution also asked for council to "order" the city's representatives on the Codiac Regional Policing Authority to require RCMP redistribute officers in the region to specific areas of the city considered at higher need "until the crime rate reduces significantly."

It also called on the province to provide more resources.

The policing authority oversees the Codiac RCMP and sets its budget but doesn't have operational control of the force. A report by city staff on the resolution said council lacks the legislative power to order the authority's board members to do anything.

Mayor Dawn Arnold and councillors Thériault, Monique LeBlanc, Léger, Dave Steeves and Susan Edgett voted against the resolution. Councillors Shawn Crossman, Bourgeois, Marty Kingston, Bryan Butler and Paul Richard voted in favour.

"I think the time for study is over, we've certainly heard very clearly from the community what they want," Arnold said near the end of the debate. "What they want is more boots on the ground in our community,."

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Don Moore, the chair of the policing authority who attended Monday's council meeting, said in an interview the board hasn't formally considered the issue but members have an interest in "increasing the police presence in this community."

Moore said the board would need to look at various scenarios and costs. He said adding officers also means added costs for equipment, vehicles, and support services. But that may mean any change may not happen until 2023.

Increasing the police force from its budgeted 147 members requires approval by councils in Dieppe and Riverview under the policing authority agreement. Moore said it also requires RCMP approval.

If the 2023 budget includes more officers, Moore said the force has up to a year to fulfil that request.

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