Police in Cape Breton concerned about rising number of weapons incidents

Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Robert Walsh says it's unclear why the number of weapons calls is up, but one recently involved shots fired in the direction of officers. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Robert Walsh says it's unclear why the number of weapons calls is up, but one recently involved shots fired in the direction of officers. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

The number of weapons complaints in Cape Breton Regional Municipality is on the increase, including one last month in which shots were fired at police officers.

In a scrum with reporters after a police commission meeting on Tuesday, Chief Robert Walsh said there have been six weapons incidents in CBRM in the last month alone.

"It is concerning for us," he said. "Whenever weapons are involved in the public realm, there's always a concern for public safety and for officer safety. In fact, we actually had shots fired in the direction of police, which is very concerning. We don't normally see that here."

Police have never mentioned coming under fire in any news releases, so Walsh was asked for details.

The chief would only say it happened during an incident at the Highlands Motel in North Sydney, N.S., last month.

"I can't elaborate much further, because it's part of the ongoing investigation [and] those matters are still before the court," he said.

Crisis negotiators called in

In a news release at the time, police said they were responding to a noise complaint at the motel that included "reports of possible shots fired from inside a unit."

Police said crisis negotiators got a 28-year-old man to come out about two hours after the complaint.

The release said he was "arrested without incident" and taken to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital for assessment.

Police now say the man has been charged with mischief, possession and careless use of a firearm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, assaulting a peace officer and breaches of previous court-ordered conditions.

On Tuesday, Walsh told reporters police are prepared to deal with weapons complaints and are not taking any special action to deal with the increase in incidents.

More than 90 of the force's 200 officers are trained to use carbines, a military-style rifle, and there are specialized units that deal with various aspects of dangerous situations, he said.

"I'm very grateful that we're a full-service police agency that has tools such as emergency response teams and carbine operators, K-9 and other tools and our support services in major crimes to help us investigate these complaints."

Matthew Moore/CBC
Matthew Moore/CBC

A review of press releases and Facebook posts from Cape Breton police shows six weapons-related incidents since Oct. 12.

Several involve charges of assault and illegal possession and unsafe storage of firearms and ammunition.

The most recent incident, which occurred Oct. 27 in Florence, resulted in a first-degree murder charge.

Walsh said they are all unrelated, but the increase is part of a national trend.

"We're seeing this actually right across the country and it's an anomaly. We don't know why we're seeing a surge in weapons-related complaints, but it's concerning that we are unfortunately seeing it here now in our community."

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