“All we know for sure is that the policing model is going to change," says Campobello Mayor Stephen Smart during a recent interview, expressing concerns about the response time from police when an emergency occurs on the island. The rural community now pays $60,000 annually for coverage from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which entitles them to "1.68 shifts per week," or 12 hours of active coverage. The two officers living on the island are obligated to spend much of their time elsewhere in the province. However, in two years, that may change as contracts are reevaluated.
"The biggest issue is there's no money," says Smart. The most recent contract between the Province of New Brunswick and the RCMP cut the amount paid to the federal police force by $5 million, forcing the Mounties to change some of their practices. The use of civilian support personnel for court purposes, operation of evidence storage facilities and similar functions is expected to allow officers to spend more time out on patrol.
Deer Island has no regular coverage, says Smart; however, officers can get there by ferry relatively quickly from the mainland. Grand Manan, with roughly double Campobello's population, has five officers and a clerk, but the island pays $173,000 annually for the service. Officers called to Campobello need a full hour to make it from St. Stephen, except "in rare cases" where they can reduce the time to 45 minutes. Such situations require coordination with the Maine State Police, and other conditions also apply.
RCMP records, provided to Smart, show that the island has a long‑term average of "0.496 files per week," meaning that on the average there is only one incident requiring police attention every other week. "They have a hard time justifying giving us better coverage," says Smart. Part of the issue, he says, is that many things are not reported. "If it's not reported, they don't know about it, and it doesn't get into their numbers." He points out that in a close‑knit community many people may be aware of things happening but are reluctant to report them.
"Our cost has not gone up," says Smart, "but coverage has gone down."
One scenario that was evaluated during a recent meeting would increase the coverage to four officers, for a total annual cost of $905,000. Of this, Campobello would pay $275,000, in addition to the present fee of $60,000. "We can't afford that," he says. "My job is to keep Campobello Island on the provincial radar."
A public discussion about the policing issue was planned for the September 30 council meeting. While questions remain as to how well publicized this proposed discussion was, it failed to draw a crowd. "I don't know whether this was a sign of apathy or confidence in the council," says Smart.