According to North Battleford Mayor Ryan Bater, the city needs provincial and federal help in order to truly overcome the crime problem in the city.
The city’s crime issue was recently pushed into the national spot light when it became the subject of a Maclean’s Magazine article calling it the 'Most Dangerous City in Canada.
Bater said the city is doing more than any other in the country in an effort to combat crime and added the HUB and SAGE programs are doing great work, but admitted there is only so much the municipality can do.
“The programs are clearly determining crime in our community is directly linked to mental health and addictions,” Bater said. “We would like a conversation with the province in terms of the existing delivery of mental health and addictions services and some new programs that could be explored. Specifically, perhaps we need to explore a detox centre and or a rooming house.”
According to Bater, a rooming house would provide a place to stay for the homeless and also has a navigator on site. The navigator would assist those with addictions and try to help them overcome their issues. Bater said some rooming houses even include alcohol management or full detox programs.
“I am not saying that’s needed, but that is what we need to explore with the province. We clearly can’t do that as a municipality. We don’t have the authority to be doing these kinds of things and we’d need the province to help.”
Bater said he appreciates the seven police officers the provincial government currently provides, but the city could use more. He cited a statistic that police in North Battleford have the second highest criminal code offense rate per officer in the province and third place isn’t even close.
“It is my view that we need more policing resources... because the ratio continues to be very high, we would respectfully wish the province consider investing additional resources. By resources we want new RCMP officers and positions.”
Bater got even more specific and said he would like to see the new officers dedicated to organized and major crime in northwest Saskatchewan. Though they would focus on the northwest, Bater wants them stationed in North Battleford because it is an “epicenter for that activity.”
When pressed, Battlefords MLA, Herb Cox, wouldn’t say he had personally asked the province to provide more police officers or a detox centre to North Battleford. He said the province is aware of the crime situation in the city though.
“This problem to me isn’t unique to North Battleford,” Cox said. “We heard similar things all around the province. I think our local police here are doing an excellent job. I am completely behind Inspector Sutherland and his team.”
Cox added the province is always looking to find “more and better solutions” to problems Saskatchewan faces. He gave an example of the Community Safety Officer program as one he believed has worked well.
Cox added he didn’t agree with the Maclean’s article. According to the MLA, the general consensus he has gathered is that more people are upset with the article than agree with it.
As for what the federal government can do to help, Bater said there has been positive progress on that front.
According to Bater, the city is waiting on a $50,000 grant application from Indian Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).
“If that is approved it will allow us to build a model through which the federal, provincial, First Nation and municipal governments can work on these issues. We don’t have those formal mechanisms right now. If that is approved then that is a big deal. It would be a big win.”
Bater said the city also applied for $250,000 through Public Safety Canada. According to the mayor, the money, if approved, would put the model from the INAC grant into action.
“We could do a full on engagement. We could go into each community including our city, First Nation communities, rural municipalities and all the entities within that model. We would then identify services being delivered, where the gaps are and how we starting filling gaps.”
“When we start talking about mental health, addictions and poverty this will actually help get specific. We will find out the specific programs that are working, the ones that aren’t and the ones that are needed.”
Bater said Public Safety Canada is hosting a two-day workshop in North Battleford at the end of February, which will focus on bringing the federal, provincial, municipal and First Nation governments together.
On Twitter @realgreghiggins
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