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New Brunswick public safety minister, top RCMP officer address rising crime

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New Brunswick’s minister of public safety and the province’s top RCMP officer made a rare joint appearance Thursday to address rising crime.

The crime rate in the province has seen a 26 per cent increase over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada.

The numbers also show that the province’s Crime Severity Index has been the highest among the Atlantic provinces for the last five years and is 20 per cent higher than the national rate.

Kris Austin, New Brunswick’s public safety minister, says government is aware of the rise in crime.

“This police-reported data supports what I’ve been hearing from New Brunswickers and what law enforcement agencies are reporting and saying to us,” said Austin.

The news conference saw the release of provincial crime statistics from police agencies in the province from April 2021 to 2022.

During that time, police across the province made 159 drug seizures, seized about $808,000 in cash, 311 weapons and made 328 arrests related to drug crime.

The province also outlined how it spent $7.6 million since April 2021 to reduce crime. This includes:

  • $2.3 million in 2021-22 for the RCMP to start Provincial Crime Reduction Units which focus on high-level drug crime
  • $2 million in 2021-22 in the Safer Communities Programs, which includes the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) program, and enforcement efforts targeting contraband tobacco and cannabis
  • $3.3 million this year to create Integrated Drug Enforcement Units. These units include police officers and peace officers from the Department of Justice and Public Safety and focus on street-level and mid-level drug crime

Austin says specialized crime reduction units are making an impact and that incoming legislation to curb the theft of copper and catalytic converters will help too.

In June, residents of McAdam, N.B., held a public meeting about local crime and RCMP coverage around the village.

Mayor Kevin Stannix says there has been some improvement since.

“We did get some extra coverage in the midnight hours, which made quite a difference in criminal activity,” said Stannix.

“Prior to that, between midnight and 8 a.m., we didn’t really have any RCMP or police coverage in the community.”

Assistant Commissioner Deanna Hill, the New Brunswick RCMP’s commanding officer, said a lack of coverage is a common complaint of RCMP policing.

“Wherever I go, I never hear dissatisfaction with the RCMP, our membership, or service,” said Hill. “It’s mostly that there’s not enough of us. They want to see more of us.”

Stannix says the village’s own decision to add cameras in the area has been effective too.

“Once people get the idea that they’re being watched and they’ll be punished if they commit crimes, that tends to lessen crime in those particular areas,” said Stannix.

While talking about the crime numbers, Austin once again defended the provincial government’s decision to build a new jail in the Fredericton region.

“In relation to the increase in the work these officers are doing, yes, it will inevitably result in an increase in inmates. So, that’s the importance of the jail,” said Austin.

Initially tagged to cost $32 million, Austin says the jail’s final price tag is still being worked out.

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