Nfld. & Labrador

Paul Davis blames Labrador deployment for steep plunge in RCMP tickets

Opposition Leader and former cop Paul Davis says he talked to police officers who told him detachments were "skinned out."

Opposition leader says government has serious questions to answer about how mission affected traffic safety

Opposition Leader Paul Davis believes the sharp reduction in traffic tickets issued by police this summer was directly related to the deployment of police officers to Labrador. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Opposition Leader Paul Davis says he's not surprised that the number of Highway Traffic Act tickets issued by police this summer took a sharp plunge, and believes it's a consequence of the deployment of large numbers of RCMP officers to Labrador.

"I expected there was no way that for the full summer they could keep up the operational levels that have existed, and it creates all kinds of questions and all kinds of concerns," Davis told CBC News.

"I can't accept that there's absolutely no correlation," he added.

Numbers obtained by CBC News through an access to information request reveal that police in the province issued 41 per cent fewer tickets in August 2017 than in the same month the year before.

A two-vehicle collision on Veteran's Memorial Highway outside Harbour Grace. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Figures provided by the Department of Justice and Public Safety show the number dropped from 3,324 tickets to 1,946.

The drop was roughly the same for both the RCMP and the RNC​

 I know that their offices and detachments were skinned out for everybody that could be deployed to Labrador.- Paul Davis

And the number of speeding tickets handed out by the RCMP fell by half, from 871 in August 2016 to 436 in August 2017.

The apparent reduction in highway enforcement efforts came at the same time as dozens of police officers — mostly RCMP — were scrambled to Labrador to bolster security for activities related to the controversial Muskrat Falls Project.

At the same time, the death toll on the province's highways was surging, with 18 fatalities in a span of seven weeks beginning in early August. Earlier in 2017, there were seven highway-related deaths.

Daily patrols slow speeders, Davis says

"I talk to police officers around the province and I know that their offices and detachments were skinned out for everybody that could be deployed to Labrador," said Davis, who was a member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary before entering politics.

The RCMP handed out half as many speeding tickets in August 2017 as it did the year before. (CBC)

Davis would not link the Labrador deployment to the the sudden increase in highway deaths, but he said driving habits are known to deteriorate when enforcement is relaxed.

"We know that if there's police cars on the highways, that are doing traffic patrols, issuing tickets, if they're there day after day after day, it impacts drivers. Drivers have a tendency to slow down — to drive more carefully and watch what they're doing," Davis said.

The CBC requested the ticket numbers after being urged to do so by several frustrated Mounties who were concerned about what they say was a serious reduction in enforcement in August.

Despite repeated attempts by the CBC to get answers, the RCMP has declined to give an explanation as to why tickets numbers were so much lower from one August to the next.

"Without completing a comprehensive analysis of enforcement initiatives, tickets issued and types of traffic violations it is not possible at this time to explain the difference in the numbers you have presented," a spokesperson wrote in a statement.
RCMP have fewer officers to patrol roads because of vacant positions, leave and secondments, some Mounties say. (Twitter/rcmpnl)
Meanwhile, the RCMP is reviewing its traffic strategy in order to "identify what more we can do to prevent road crashes."

Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons was not available for an interview, with his officials describing the ticket numbers as an "operational issue" best addressed by police leadership.

The RNC described the drop in ticket numbers as an anomaly, and that "any number of factors could create variances month over month or year over year for the number of summary offence tickets that are given out."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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