Oxford Police Review Centres on The Price Tag
The pouring rain last evening may have been the reason for the smattering of people who showed up for Oxford's Community Consultation Meeting at the Capitol Theatre.
Only about a dozen residents, plus town staff and representatives of the RCMP, were on hand to provide feedback on one of the hottest topics facing the Town of Oxford in recent years: the community's policing services.
Chief Administrative Officer Linda Cloney says an online survey conducted over the past few weeks brought in an additional 92 responses, in a community reportedly around 1200 residents.
David Hoffman, member of the Oxford Police Advisory Board, hosted the event. He outlined the reasons for the consultation, which will inform the Town's eventual decision as to what changes might be coming for police in the community.
The key matter before decision-makers is Oxford's policing bill: a whopping $530-thousand annually. That works out to $453 per resident, whereas the Municipality of Cumberland County, with a population just shy of 20-thousand residents, pays $259 per resident. Compared to communities of similar size, Oxford is also seen to be paying a higher bill than seems justified.
The county's share of that bill covers 27.3 officers, while Oxford's share is 2.7.
Hoffman says given the small geographic footprint of Oxford, compared to the county which might take two hours to cover end-to-end, is another factor weighing against that unusually large cost.
Hoffman said if the Town of Oxford is indeed responsible for 80-percent of the police calls per year, then it would be justifiable that the bill reflect the service. But, he said, there is no evidence that the town is such a demand on the time of police officers. A survey of town residents overwhelmingly describes the community as "very safe", notwithstanding the occasional incident of vandalism.
Responses submitted online and by members of the public in attendance centred on a handful of key concerns: visibility of officers in the community, traffic (speeding, traffic congestion at the school, issues with the downtown intersection, and ATVs on public roads), and awareness of what it is the RCMP does in the community.
Hoffman said the province has a formula to calculate cost-sharing between the County, Province, Town and the Federal Government, but it's "a mystery" how Oxford ends up with such a large fee. He said the Police Advisory Board looked at this matter four years ago, and was unable to find a definitive answer. He says this time, they won't stop until the reasons are made clear.
With Cumberland County undertaking its own review of police services, the Oxford wants to gauge the mood of the community to help it decide what to do in case the County chooses to toss the RCMP and move to another policing system, such as contracting services to the Town of Amherst, the Town of Truro, or some new kind of arrangement that has been floated: a regional police force encompassing Colchester and Cumberland counties.
Hoffman was clear on one point: Oxford is not considering going it alone and hiring its own police, something he called "unfeasible".
Add your comments below.