Surveillance cameras, community watch on council table

Andrew Wagstaff
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Members of public criticize RCMP during Parrsboro meeting

PARRSBORO – While town council was discussing the idea of surveillance cameras on Main Street and reviving the community watch program, members of the public were calling for more patrols from the local RCMP.

The comments from the public came during a citizens’ forum after the meeting in which Coun. Ron Shaw brought both the idea of cameras and community watch to the table. He said he was asked to bring it up by residents of the town after a recent incident of vandalism that saw the destruction of several pumpkin decorations created by children in one of the town’s recreation programs.

“I had some concerned citizens who were upset because the kids had worked so hard with Tissy (Bolivar, recreation director) to make something there, and then they just destroyed them,” said Shaw. “I know those things are going to happen, but…”

Council had discussed the idea of surveillance cameras about one year ago, with one camera at each end of the street, but had deemed it cost-prohibitive. However, other towns like Hantsport and Antigonish are proceeding with installing cameras, and Mayor Lois Smith asked that it be looked into again by CAO Ray Hickey, with possibly an opportunity for bulk purchasing with other towns.

“I don’t think it would hurt, because it would help the RCMP with a lot of things they have to do, if it got to that point,” said Shaw.

Also helpful would be a community watch program like the one that existed in Parrsboro during the 1990s, he said. The program saw community volunteers take turns walking around town at select times, and reporting any suspicious behaviour.

“It seemed to keep some control on what was going on, because people didn’t really know who was on the watch committee,” said Shaw, who was one of the volunteers. “Different people went out on different evenings for walks, mostly on the weekends.”

While the councillor did not point his finger at the local RCMP, he did say they could help play a role.

“I just think if they had more visibility it would be a good thing sometimes,” said Shaw. “They do need more of a presence. But I wouldn’t want their job either.”

Members of the audience were less forgiving, saying increased police patrols would help prevent incidents such as littering, and skateboarding and bicycling without helmets.

“How can they write tickets, if they don’t do patrols?” asked Giselle Henwood.

“They are invisible,” declared fire chief Randy Mosher.

Hickey defended the local RCMP, saying their work may not always be visible, but that they are getting work done. For example, he said they have given tickets to people for not wearing helmets.

Const. Nick Rustige is one of five RCMP members working out of the Parrsboro office. He accepted that the public has complaints, but argued that increased patrols would do little to deter incidents such as pumpkin smashing.

“We do what we can do,” he said. “There is a perception that increased patrols might help the situation, but if someone is intent on breaking a pumpkin, they can just wait until the police car drives by.”

Surveillance could help the police identify suspects, according to Rustige, but he said it was up to the town if they want to go that route. He was also receptive to the idea of a community watch program.

“If they did get a community group going, we would liaise with them and provide any assistance we could,” he said. “It sounds like a pretty good idea to me.”

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Parrsboro, Bolivar, Hantsport

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