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Public engagement sessions on policing wrap up in Cumberland

Residents in River Hebert told consultants studying the future of policing in Cumberland County on Tuesday, Oct. 4, that they want increased RCMP visibility in their community.

It was a theme heard throughout the five public engagement sessions hosted by the Municipality of Cumberland and Narrative Research as part of a review of policing services in the county.

Narrative Research will take what it learned during the five sessions in Parrsboro, Pugwash, Springhill, Upper Nappan and River Hebert, as well as stakeholder interviews and an online survey, and compile a report to the county’s police review committee later in October.

“I think the visibility has to be there as well as the response time. It’s pretty important,” River Hebert village commission chair Darrell Fagan said following the final meeting.Fagan appreciated having the meeting in River Hebert because public input is needed.“People have to have an opportunity to say what they want to say,” Fagan said. “I appreciate the municipality for having this meeting in River Hebert because it has been an issue here like in other areas.”

Several residents attending the meeting pointed out the lack of efficient cell services to call for help, especially at times when there are extended power outages – like the days following post-tropical storm Fiona, which left the River Hebert-Joggins area without power for several days.Residents also expressed concern about not seeing much of a police presence in the community, saying they’d prefer to see police in the community as much as possible.

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a police car down here. It would be nice to have some visibility,” a resident told the consultants.

Residents said they’d like to see a branch office in the community, if that’s possible, while also urging the RCMP to come up with a way to better communicate what it’s doing to fight crime – whether it be through social media or even on the community bulletin board.

Another resident said increased visibility would make the roads in the area safer.

“I used to be a walker, but I don’t feel safe on my road anymore. Sometimes it’s like a speedway,” the resident said of the Barronsfield Road.

Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott said he is pleased with the input the consultants have received. He stressed again the purpose of the review is service and it’s not about saving money. He said the municipality wants to improve the service, who can provide that service and is asking residents for their input.

“I’m really happy with the input we’ve received and appreciative of the people who have come out to these five meetings across the county,” the mayor said. “We heard a lot of the same themes at each meeting, things like visibility in the community and response times.”

Scott said Narrative Research will compile the information from the public sessions and provide a report to the police review committee. Once that has been considered, the eight-person committee (with representatives from each district) will make a recommendation to council.

While the public meetings are over, the mayor is urging people to go to the municipality’s website (www.cumberlandcounty.ns.ca) to participate in a survey on policing.

That survey will be live until Tuesday, Oct. 11.