Petty crime leads Plaster Rock to hire private security company

Plaster Rock mayor Tom Eagles says private security guards seem to have helped quiet down thefts and vandalism. (Village of Plaster Rock - image credit)
Plaster Rock mayor Tom Eagles says private security guards seem to have helped quiet down thefts and vandalism. (Village of Plaster Rock - image credit)

The Village of Plaster Rock has hired a private security firm to help deal with petty crime.

Thieves started running "rampant" in the Tobique area this summer, said Mayor Tom Eagles. They took kayaks, canoes, four-wheelers, side-by-sides, trailers and gasoline.

"They broke into the golf course here a couple of times this summer. It's even got so bad they broke into a tool shed at the local cemetery and stole the gas there," he said.

Similar concerns were heard in recent months from McAdam in southwestern N.B., where the RCMP decided to step up night patrols following a series of community meetings.

Plaster Rock council opted to hire the private security company, GardaWorld.

They've been contracted to guard municipal property for two weekends in a row at a cost of about $1,000 per weekend, said Patty St. Peter, chief administrative officer.

"They come when they're needed," said Eagles.

The presence of marked security vehicles and persons in uniform "goes a long way," he said.

"With social media ... one push of the button and everybody knows they're there. The word spreads fast."

The village has three to four acres of property, said Eagles, including a recreational facility, swimming pool, tennis courts and tourist park that extends to Roulston Lake, where the World Pond Hockey championships were played.

"It's a big area," said Eagles.

"And the petty stuff was getting huge."

Surveillance cameras not helping

A gas tank on a recreation truck had to be replaced, he said, a shed was broken into and items were stolen, including paddles and lifeguarding supplies.

"You have to replace that, and it costs a lot of money — $4-5,000 doesn't go far today."

New Brunswick RCMP
New Brunswick RCMP

The village has about 20 video surveillance cameras, said Eagles, but they haven't been much help.

"Unless you can see a face or get a licence plate number, there isn't much sense with the cameras. So you've almost got to catch them right there."

Plaster Rock used to have an RCMP detachment with four officers, said Eagles.

"When they were here, they were involved with sports, they were involved with the youth, they were highly respected.

"I don't see that now."

Large area to cover

Now, RCMP officers are dispatched from Perth-Andover or Woodstock, he said, to cover a region that extends north to Nictau and Riley Brook, and it often takes days to respond to non-emergency calls.

"There's days and days and days you will never see a police officer in the village," he said.

"If it was a bad accident or there's life and death involved, yes, they would come," said Eagles, "but the petty stuff, it's usually on hold unless the officer is available."

That's rarely the case, he said, because they have a large area to cover.

"We get calls all the time, there's a vehicle on fire on the Renous Highway or there's something else going on. The dispatcher will call into the local fire department and they'll tell them the RCMP's not coming because they have something else on the go that's way, far more important."

The national average, noted Eagles, is 1.8 police officers per 1,000 people. Across New Brunswick, he said, it's 1.6 and in Plaster Rock, it's 1.0.

"We paid $200,000 for the RCMP, but the RCMP weren't there, so we had to do something."

'Money well spent'

Eagles said he spoke to the former commanding officer of the RCMP in New Brunswick about a year ago, but has not had any contact with the new one.

He said this summer he contacted the minister of public safety and has recently heard back from someone to organize a meeting.

"It's no different here than it would be in other small communities in the province," said Eagles, "and it's a problem."

Much of the theft is probably motivated by the need for cash to buy drugs, he said.

"If there's a mental health (issue) or an addiction," he said, "we're here to help. But in most cases you have to ask for help."

So far, said Eagles, the private security contract has "been money well spent."

The village will do it again, he said "if need be."

CBC News has contacted the RCMP to ask why the number of officers per capita is low in the Plaster Rock area and for a possible response to the mayor's description of inadequate service.

We've also asked the Department of the Attorney General and Public Safety whether it approves of the measure Plaster Rock has taken and whether policing reforms can be expected in the new year along with regional service commission changes.