Fern Bennett says the higher fee for background checks may prevent some people from volunteering. (CBC)

A volunteer in Saint John is calling on the city police to waive the fee for criminal background checks, following a recent increase.

The fee is now $25, up from $10 last month, which is a burden for some volunteers, said Fern Bennett.

"Our volunteers come from all economic brackets so you know there are some people who can afford those costs, but we also have people who are on fixed incomes or just totally unable to pay that price," she said.

Bennett, who volunteers at the Out of the Cold shelter for men in Saint John, lives in St. Martins, so her criminal background check is free of charge, courtesy of the RCMP.

She believes the Saint John Police Force should also provide the service for free to volunteers.

"For there to be barriers to people who have no money, who desire to contribute to society — and there are many who do — to have a barrier like that, that keeps them from participating — it's a waste of this wonderful human resource," said Bennett.

Sgt. Jay Henderson says the force did consider the impact on volunteers when the price was increased.

But the volume of background checks the force must conduct has jumped to several thousand per year — and many of them are for volunteers.

"That is still costing the taxpayers, it's still costing the Saint John Police Force out of our operating budget to do these checks," Henderson said.

The price increase came after police purchased two electronic fingerprint scanners worth a combined $140,000 and hired a staff member to handle the background checks, he said.