MARYSTOWN, NL – A pilot project that saw 24-hour policing in Marystown and Clarenville has come to an end.
The project, which began in June 2016, had at least two RCMP officers on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Superintendent Archie Thompson with the RCMP East District confirmed to the Southern Gazette that the pilot project ended in mid-January.
“Twenty-four-hour policing was a pilot project in Marystown,” he told the Southern Gazette. “We also ran the same type of pilot in Clarenville, so it was due to end – now it ended a little bit early because of resources.”
Running the program required officers to work extended hours to maintain a 24-hour schedule, he said.
“It’s harder on the members, to stretch them like that, (to provide) more coverage, plus financially it’s a little more challenging as well,” said Thompson.
Before the pilot project was introduced, officers on the Burin Peninsula were on call 5-7 a.m.
Thompson said although officers will no longer be on round-the-clock duty, they will still be available to respond if needed.
“We still have coverage for all the areas – it’s just not people working 24-hours per day.”
Thompson, who looks after the eastern side of the province, said no other detachments have officers working 24 hours a day.
“There’s coverage, but it may be that somebody’s off and they’ve got to be called in.”
Everett Farwell, chair of the Burin Peninsula Joint Council, is concerned about the ending of 24-hour service.
“This is a step in the wrong direction,” Farwell told the Southern Gazette on Tuesday. “I was surprised when I heard it at the joint council meeting.”
Farwell believes public consultations should have been held before a decision was made to end the project.
“Before any changes were made, they (RCMP officials) should have given the public an opportunity to meet with the appropriate RCMP officials and make suggestion or raise concerns,” he said.
He is concerned that opening a window of time where officers are not onduty could lead to an increase in crime.
“With the legalizing of marijuana coming on stream, and the troubles that we’re having with mental health and addictions … never at any time in our history has there been any greater need to increase the numbers of RCMP officers than it is now,” Farwell said.
Gone but not forgotten
While the pilot project has ended, Thompson said that doesn’t mean it won’t be reinstated.
“I will say that the door is still open on 24-hour policing within the Marystown area,” he said, adding he communicates regularly with Staff Sgt. Dale Foote with the Burin Peninsula RCMP.
“If we were to look at that (again) we’d make sure that our human resources were in place … and see if we couldn’t run that again at some point,” he said. “We moved away because the pilot has ended, (but) not to say we wouldn’t re-consider it, especially in Marystown.”