There is a possibility Pitt Meadows council will want its own police detachment, but “we’re not there yet,” said Mayor Bill Dingwall.
“We” is the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, whose councils have agreed to conduct a policing service review. Dingwall was not willing to pre-suppose the results of that process, which was announced late Thursday in a joint press release from both city halls. But he said a separate detachment for Pitt Meadows is on the table.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said his council is taking action based on public complaints, most often about police response to property crimes.
“The public is very clear – residents and businesses don’t feel they are being responded to adequately,” he said.
He noted the city doubled private security in the downtown this spring, and these officers will deal with lesser or non-criminal complaints in the downtown core, freeing the RCMP to deal with more serious crime. The police review also fits with the community safety plan the city is developing, said Morden.
“We’re working to make sure the community is safe,” Morden said. He adding that a more vibrant downtown core is also a goal, along with increased community pride.
He said the review should offer councillors details about where police officers are deployed, and what they are doing. For example, whether they are involved in overdose response, or if they get tied up at hospital with mental health calls.
What does the mayor want from the police service review?
“Appropriate policing for the various problems that present themselves today,” he answers.
“We’ve got urban problems here. They have showed up.”
He said property crime to support addiction and “manic behaviour” caused by drugs are concerns for him and the public.
Dingwall, a former RCMP superintendent, said Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are different cities, and because Pitt Meadows lacks many social services provided in Maple Ridge, some of the associated problems are not evident there.
“Maple Ridge is a very different community in many respects, in that criminal justice piece,” Dingwall.
Maple Ridge is also fast growing, while Pitt Meadows is projected to remain a small city, peaking at 25,000 population.
However, he also said Pitt Meadows residents have said for a long time they want a strong police presence.
“Our community has been very vocal about police visibility,” said Dingwall.
The review will show how much time officers who are allocated to Pitt Meadows spend responding to calls in Maple Ridge under the current model, he said.
“Where you need help, the help will go.”
Pitt Meadows having its own detachment is part of the discussion, he said. The city has a population of approximately 18,600, and comparably-sized cities such as White Rock, Squamish and Cranbrook all have their own detachments.
White Rock is next to the largest RCMP detachment in Canada in Surrey, but has its own detachment, he noted.
Dingwall said the review will look at whether the cities have the right number of officers and other issues. The review will be done by each city, the detachment and the RCMP’s Lower Mainland district staff where needed.
Coun. Nicole MacDonald will serve on the police review task force for Pitt Meadows, along with Dingwall and city staff. The notary is a former Vancouver Police officer.
She said the operational cost of having a Pitt Meadows detachment may not cost the city more than it currently pays. She noted that for the budget of almost $5.7 million the city spends on policing, the comparably-sized municipalities such as White Rock all run their own detachments.
“There’s a lot of policing you can get in that $5.7 million,” she said.
When people mention policing in the neighbourhood or on social media, she said it often concerns mischief, petty crime or a desire for “that feeling of safety.”
“Public safety is the number one concern for the city,” she said. “People want to see police – we feel safe when they’re accessible and local.”
MacDonald said a start-and-stop model was supposed to see Ridge Meadows officers beginning and ending their shifts at the Pitt Meadows station, and she will be interested to see whether that has been happening, and whether that model is working to have them spend more time in Pitt Meadows.
Ultimately, when the review is complete, MacDonald wants to do what’s best for her city. The review will either re-establish city hall’s confidence in the existing model, or initiate change, so “only good can come of it.”
“We’re taking a collaborative approach, but our priority is Pitt Meadows,” she said.
Morden said Dingwall’s experience as a former RCMP Superintendent, and Ridge Meadows detachment commander will be invaluable during the review.
“This initiative by the City of Maple Ridge and the City of Pitt Meadows is an opportunity for the RCMP to work collaboratively as a partner to ensure that the Ridge Meadows Detachment resources and deployment model is responsive to ever-evolving community needs. Our Detachment is always looking for ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of policing and this type of review is one tool that the RCMP and its city partners can use to help us attain that objective,” said Superintendent Jennifer Hyland, officer in charge of the Ridge Meadows RCMP Detachment.
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