Police street crew drops an officer

THE RCMP detachment’s unit credited with reducing crime and disorder on downtown streets during the past two years is losing one of its four officers.

Detachment commander Inspector Eric Stubbs said he doesn’t have enough officers at his disposal to keep the Crime Reduction Unit, otherwise known as the street crew, at four members.

“I did some creative juggling with our resources last year that won’t be available to me this year. I’m still optimistic that they can sustain their effectiveness with a three-member unit,” said Stubbs.

The reduction of officers isn’t due to the budget, rather there aren’t the officers available due to a combination of vacant positions and maternity leaves, added Stubbs.

Whether the fewer number of street crew officers means that their priorities will change remains to be seen when it’s sorted out, he added.

Mayor Dave Pernarowski believes the cut to the street crew’s numbers won’t affect the amount of crime downtown.

“Well the question is ‘do I feel that [three officers] would be sufficient?’ I do,” said Pernarowski. “Obviously our goal again is to have as consistent a police presence through the Crime Reduction Unit as possible…It started with two [and] moved to four. Three keeps a good presence to keep up our desire to have downtown accessible to everyone and free of all the types of crimes going on in that area not too long ago.”

Criminals aren’t likely to see it as a chance to resume their activities downtown.

“Absolutely not. Three is much better than zero which is where it was prior to his (Stubbs’) initiative being put in place by city council. I’m comfortable with that,” said Pernarowski.

City council will continue to monitor the downtown and how the street crew fares with three members and if it feels there’s a need to go back to four officers, council could   discuss it in future budget discussions, he added.

“It’s so important for us to maintain the presence to let prolific offenders know we are not stepping back from  this initiative and our desire to make the downtown accessible and really revitalize [downtown],” said Pernarowski, adding the idea is to make downtown a place people want to go so families can come out to spend time in George Little Park without worrying about any criminal activity. Downtown business owners don’t have to worry about the reduction in the street crew, he believes.

All Seasons Source for Sports owner Bob Park, one of the business community’s persistent advocates for increased police presence downtown, says as long as the street crew is there, that’s the important thing.

“It’s been great,” he said of the street crew’s work since it began nearly two years ago in April 2009.

The change from two officers to four provided better coverage but going from four to three doesn’t worry him.

“I’m not saying it’s great but three is better than none,” said Park.

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