Moncton residents air heightened concerns over crime
Mayor says help has been requested from all levels of government
About 200 people met at a Moncton church last night to talk about concerns and solutions for increasing homelessness, drug use and crime in the city's west end.
"We need to clean this up," said business owner and Salisbury Road resident Lesley Northrup. "I'm hopeful that it will happen, but I don't know if it's gone too far."
The meeting was called after hundreds of residents and several school principals complained this spring about things like break-ins, thefts, loitering, encounters with people behaving erratically, and discarded needles.
Northrup, one of about 25 people to speak, expressed concern about the safety of her staff and property.
"People work hard for what they have and they shouldn't live in fear," she said.
She's also frustrated by the lack of progress.
Similar concerns were raised at a meeting three years ago, said Northrup, and the issues have continued to increase.
Her personal experience has included having an encampment behind her property.
The residents were friendly, she said, but they clear cut about two acres and erected six structures that were wired and powered by generators. A generator of hers was stolen.
Other people have had stolen propane tanks. A little thing like that may not seem like a big deal, she said, but she believes they're being used to cook drugs.
It took a while for the camp to be removed, she said, because it wasn't on her property or the city's.
She helped with the cleanup afterwards.
"One hundred propane tanks, garbage, drug paraphernalia — you name it, it was there."
Northrup supported a suggestion made at the meeting that more social workers be hired.
She added that she'd like more consideration given for other "vulnerable" segments of the population, including seniors, "who are afraid to be at home in their houses alone at night," and "afraid to go for a walk in their neighbourhood."
Many people who attended said they want more resources and accountability directed at the issues.
The only member of the public who spoke out with a list of possible solutions declined to speak to CBC News.
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold, several city councillors, fire Chief Conrad Landry and a representative of the Codiac RCMP were also in attendance.
Arnold told the crowd she discussed the issue with Premier Blaine Higgs earlier this week.
"It was an opportunity for me to let him know what is happening in our community and just how vitally important it is that we have the systems in place from a mental health and addictions perspective, from a shelter perspective, from mental health court perspective.
"These are vital needs in our community right now, and we can't continue to grow and flourish and be the economic engine of this province if we don't get our house in order."
The city is seeking help from all levels of government, she said.
The province has been asked to beef up mental health and addiction services, help fix the shelter system, and set up a mental health court.
Arnold said the concerns she heard at the meeting were not new, but it was a good opportunity to listen and for people to come together and offer solutions.
She noted there was a lot of feedback about enforcing the city's bylaw on shopping carts, which says businesses have to prevent the carts from being removed from parking lots and individuals aren't allowed to remove them.
She also heard calls to assess whether police resources are where they need to be.
A second community meeting is planned for May 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Lions Centre at 473 St George St.
With files from Maeve McFadden