Rural residents air frustration with policing by RCMP after alleged vigilantism

·5 min read
Don Doherty of McAdam said the RCMP aren't effectively responding to crime in the New Brunswick village. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)
Don Doherty of McAdam said the RCMP aren't effectively responding to crime in the New Brunswick village. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)

McAdam residents say petty crime is at an unprecedented high in the village, and the RCMP aren't doing enough to stop those responsible.

Officers are taking too long to respond or aren't taking reported crimes seriously, said when about 100 residents of the western New Brunswick community gathered at McAdam High School on Monday night to express their concerns to high-ranking officials of the force.

"At one time in this country … we could count on the police to do the job, get the criminal," said resident Don Doherty. "And then we could count on the justice system to put the criminal in jail. We cant count on that anymore.

"We've lost our sense of safety."

McAdam village council organized the meeting, which included Deanna Hill, the New Brunswick RCMP assistant commissioner, and Public Safety Minister Bill Hogan.

It follows an alleged act of vigilantism on June 4 that resulted in Billy McGillicuddy, a resident of neighbouring St. Croix, being accused of assaulting Blake Scott with a baseball bat and pointing a sawed-off shotgun at him.

Billy McGillicuddy/Facebook
Billy McGillicuddy/Facebook

McGillicuddy's three court appearances have brought out supporters, including McAdam Mayor Ken Stannix, who said he was supporting him and another man "who allegedly took the law into their own hands."

Dwain Gardner of McAdam also faces four criminal charges stemming from the same incident.

'You're empowering these ... criminals'

Cathy Jewett lives in Fredericton but grew up in McAdam, and her 68-year-old father still calls the community home.

She said his house was broken into earlier this year and was found ransacked when he returned after some time away.

Jewett said the family called the police, and to their surprise, were told it wasn't an incident they would send an officer to attend to in person.

She said another crime involving her father's credit card being stolen and used wasn't properly followed up by police, and now she's worried what could happen next to him.

"You're empowering these people in this village that are criminals," Jewett said.

"When you don't show up to my dad's crime scene — and that's what it was, it was a crime scene — it just proves to them that they can get away with it.

"My dad is surrounded by people in this village on his street that are known to be the bad guys. I'd just like to know how I'm supposed to keep my 68-year-old dad safe in his home when you have people that are on drugs, and I'm afraid. Are they going to come to his home when he's there by himself?"

Officer recruitment challenges

In her opening remarks, Hill said the RCMP was facing "unprecedented times" getting the resources it needs.

"We've never seen the likes of the issues we are having with getting people into the door to apply," she said. "It's not just the RCMP, It's all across the country."

"I've been in the RCMP for 32 years. I've never seen the predicament we're in now."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

In responding to complaints about RCMP response times, Hill noted McAdam is part of a regional sharing model that includes St. Stephen.

She said if there's one area she feels the RCMP needs to improve, it's the engagement it has with community members, including residents and municipal officials.

"I think over the years we've kind of gotten away from that grassroots and talking ot the people that we need to be doing, and I don't mean our guys and gals on the ground, I mean us. So nights like this are important."

Asked in an interview after the meeting the number of officers policing McAdam at any one time, Hill said she could not share that information as it could compromise the safety of officers.

She also declined to share details about what happened on June 4, the day of the alleged act of vigilantism, saying that it is a matter before the courts.

Responding to concerns about offenders committing more crimes while on promises to appear in court, Hogan said his department is taking another look at who should be allowed such conditions.

Hogan also said his department is looking at redeploying some of its peace officers to do random patrols in less policed areas, including McAdam.

Support for Billy and Dwain

Much of the dialogue avoided the two men accused of carrying out vigilante justice, though there was a brief mention of them by one of the attendees.

"I'd just like to say 95 per cent of people in this room support the McAdam justice that was doled out by Billy and Dwain," said the man, followed by a chorus of applause.

"We're fed up."

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

The conversation then turned to what residents can potentially do to defend themselves and their property, which yielded advice from the RCMP.

Andy LeClair, the RCMP superintendent for the west district, said citizens have the right to protect themselves, but that they can only use "reasonable force."

As an example, he said, if someone restrained a burglar, there likely wouldn't be charges pressed if the alleged burglar suffered some bruising.

"Now if he was summarily beaten by the individual making the arrest, yeah, you're going to put yourself into a difficult set of circumstances," LeClair said.

"Ultimately, we do not advocate vigilante justice."

Optimistic going forward

Stannix warned that if people don't feel they're being protected, they'll find others to protect them.

He also complained that the criminals were being protected by the current legal system.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he said he was satisfied with the turnout and felt hopeful the RCMP would do something useful with the feedback they received.

"I'm hopeful that change will take effect," Stannix said.

"I know it's not going to be a quick change. It's going to take time, especially when you're talking about how the judicial system works and all those kinds of things, but at least it's a start and the concern is there.

"So if that level of criminal activity continues, maybe it'll become more of a political issue within the province, and that may be the catalyst that will bring true change."

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