Nova Scotia

Street checks help solve crimes, says black Halifax RCMP officer

Sgt. Craig Smith, a veteran RCMP officer who is black, says street checks can be essential to solving some crimes, despite calls to end the practice

'I know the value in it because I lived it when I was working on the street'

Street checks are performed on anyone police believe is acting suspiciously. Sometimes the checks involve an officer merely observing someone, while other times police spend time talking to individuals. (CBC)

Street checks can be a key part of solving some crimes despite calls to end the controversial practice, according to a black RCMP officer in Halifax.

Statistics from the Halifax Regional Police revealed that black people are three times more likely to be street checked in the city. 

Sgt. Craig Smith, an acting watch commander with the Halifax district RCMP, has been a member of the force for almost 20 years.  

"As a police officer that has been out working the streets ... there were a number of crimes that I solved because I stopped that individual at 2 in the morning or I saw that individual at 2 in the morning and was able to make the connection," Smith told the CBC's Information Morning.

"Then the next morning when there were two or three break and enters, that I was able to put the things together."

'I know the value in it'

Data released recently by the RCMP showed 41 per cent of the street checks done by the force around Halifax involved subjects who officers identified as black. 

Street checks can involve police stopping and talking to a person or a group they believe is engaged in suspicious activity. Sometimes officers simply observe a person or people with no communication.

Craig Smith says street checks help solve crimes. Black people in Halifax are three times more likely to have a street check performed on them, according to data released by the Halifax Regional Police. (CBC)

Police record details such as age, gender, location, ethnicity and reason for the street check.

"I know the value in it because I lived it when I was working on the street, but I also know there's a bigger concern here when we talk about the concerns of the African Nova Scotian community," said Smith. 

"We definitely need to be able to get to the answers to some of these questions sooner than later."

Police and community can come together

Smith said he won't comment on the data released by Halifax police and the RCMP until it has been thoroughly analyzed.

He said historically, there has been an "inherent mistrust" between the African Nova Scotian community and the police. Smith said it's up to police forces to become part of the fabric of the communities they protect by volunteering and spending time with the people they serve.

Smith said it will take a long time and a lot of attention to heal the rift between the black community and police, but he believes it can be done. 

with files from CBC's Information Morning