RCMP officers on highway overpass

Anti-shale gas protest closed Highway 11 near Rexton in October 2013. (Jen Choi / CBC)

The latest annual report from the New Brunswick RCMP shows a significant increase in protests and highway fatalities at a historic low.

The number of protests and demonstrations responded to by J Division officers between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014 rose by 63.5 per cent, from 52 to 85.

The report refers to a prolonged operation beginning in the late spring of 2013 and continuing into late autumn at a number of natural resource development protests.

That included the infamous confrontation with protesters in Rexton on Oct. 17.

Numerous charges were laid stemming from the operation and the Mounties say investigations into incidents that occurred during the protests are ongoing.

The report contains no details about the cost of policing the protests, however overall expenditures are up about $9 million to $159,034,144 for 2013-14.

Many of the protesters were from Elsipogtog First Nation and Southeast RCMP say they have worked hard on their relationship with elders from the community. A Mi’kmaq healing ceremony was held at the detachment.

Meanwhile, 2013-14 saw the lowest number of fatal collisions on New Brunswick roads patrolled by the RCMP since 1956.

The report says there were 38 crashes and 48 people killed. That represents a drop of 30 per cent from the rate last year.

It says 11 of the people who died were not wearing seat belts, and five deaths happened after the driver had been drinking or taking drugs.

The report says the major crime unit investigated four homicides in 2013. 

Kyle Edmund Scott was sentenced to 15 years in prison in May after pleading guilty to killing Sarah Kennedy, 82, at her home in Richmond Corner in October. He was arrested in the days that followed driving the victim's car near Harvey.

Jecy Arseneault, then 29, was found not criminally responsible for killing his mother, Kathleen Arseneault, 59, in March 2013, at their home in Saumarez on the Acadian Peninsula. 

A Kedgwick man, Raoul Leclair, 64, is said to have shot and killed his wife, Nicole Leclair, before killing himself. Their bodies were found Sept. 1 outside their home on Route 260.

Harry Edward Charlie McKenna, 48, was convicted by a jury last fall and sentenced to 25 years in prison in January for killing 61-year-old Kirk Blair at his home in Geary on the evening of April 30. He was arrested at the scene without incident.

There were several high-profile cases of child sexual abuse, including court proceedings against former Saint John councillor Donnie Snook, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in October.

In June 2013, four men from New Brunswick were arrested, after searches at homes in Fredericton, Lincoln, Lorne and Miramichi. Numerous CDs, DVDs, and data storage devices were seized. Charges of distributing child pornography were laid against a 52-year-old Fredericton man and a 48-year-old Miramichi man. A 42-year-old Lincoln man was charged with summary offences and a 36-year-old Lorne man was charged with possessing and importing child pornography.

The New Brunswick RCMP Internet Child Exploitation Unit expanded from five to 10 members after the government agreed to provide an extra $800,000 in funding.

Property crimes such as theft were down by eight per cent in RCMP jurisdictions in 2013.

One operation led to the arrests, in July, of three adults and one youth following a series of break and enters, thefts and arson in the Memramcook and Sackville areas. Two of the people were arrested after a helicopter chase while travelling on Highway 2 in the Oromocto area.

Drug offences were also down, by five per cent.

Major busts included the arrest of Robert Waugh, 35, or Rusagonis. The RCMP report says Waugh was in possession of more than 4,000 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) pills, commonly known as “Bath Salts,” 900 prescription pills, 454 grams of of cocaine, 255 g of dried marijuana, semi-automatic weapons, loaded handguns and more than $48,000 in cash. He pleaded guilty to 16 charges and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

An investigation into a criminal organization spanning the northeast and southeast areas of the province saw the arrest of Denis Robichaud, 50, of Val-Comeau. He pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine in March and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Later this spring, another man was arrested as part of the same investigation, J-Touchdown. Jason Robert Vienneau, of Miramichi, also pleaded guilty to possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine, and was sentenced to two years in jail.

The provincial RCMP system moved from 12 districts to four in 2013. 

Now, the number of detachment buildings is being reduced. The report says many were not being used or were very close to other offices, and some required costly repairs or replacement.

"This was the biggest change to policing in New Brunswick in 20 years, and it provides us with a smart, forward-thinking model focused on the areas where the RCMP can have the greatest positive impact on our communities," said Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, the commanding officer of RCMP in New Brunswick.

Roles such as court liaison and exhibit custodian have been turned over to civilian employees with the provincial and municipal governments.

There are now 842 regular members, 98.5 civilian employees, and 231.5 public service employees.

New units in each district made up of three police officers and three public service employees are now handling non-emergency calls. They handled 15 per cent of all RCMP calls last year.

Each district has three community program officers who work with youth, seniors and vulnerable citizens. One thing they do is try to keep young people out of the court system.

More than half of the 1,663 youth files last year were diverted from the court system.

Another innovation in the past year was the switch to electronic disclosure at the Codiac detachment. It became the first police department in the province to share documents electronically with the provincial court.