St. Stephen chamber moves forward on community safety initiative

Robert Fisher photo St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce president Jason Rideout.

ST. STEPHEN – The St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce is following through on its initiative to be involved in solutions to deal with community safety concerns in the municipal district.

Chamber president Jason Rideout said that a presentation he made to council last Wednesday was the culmination of discussions and meetings the chamber had with other stakeholders including the mayor, Coun. Wade Greenlaw, St. Croix MLA Kathy Bockus and the RCMP.

At council, Rideout had two suggestions the chamber felt could help in the short run and be a springboard to more long-term solutions: community cameras and clear lines of sight for the cameras.

Cameras are something Rideout says the chamber executive has been discussing for some time.

“We brought it up as a chamber last fall, so we had sent a request in for it to be considered for the (municipal) budget,” he said.

Rideout noted cameras can be helpful in other situations such as searches for missing persons. He went on to say the chamber can be a part of the implementation by providing anchor points on businesses and access to business Wi-Fi networks. There is no community Wi-Fi access in the town.

“We want to work with the town. We can help by hosting the cameras and providing access to Wi-Fi to run the cameras,” he said, noting the footage can be saved and sent to a central data storage point with the municipality.

Without making an official request of chamber members, Rideout said five members volunteered. The next step will be to make a formal request of members for hosting cameras.

He said some chamber members have noted issues with activity in the bushes and scrub along the river, leading to the second requested action item of clear lines of sight for the cameras. He said in discussion with the RCMP, the force said clear sight lines were important.

Funding for the cameras needs to be addressed and Rideout said, based on his discussions, there are a few possibilities. There is a provincial community initiatives fund that may be able to be tapped. He also said Greenlaw was shepherding initiatives to find funding for the cameras.

Rideout noted the chamber will hold its next executive meeting with representatives from Neighbourhood Works to bring all stakeholders into the discussion.

Rideout stressed the importance of communication and acknowledged that information being shared has to be factual to be actionable. He reiterated the need to report incidents to the RCMP and said the online reporting tool is a good solution for non-emergency occurrences. He also said the chamber can and wants to be the data collection point for its members.

“Share your instance and if we can gather that up, we can submit. We can share that. We’re stressing to our membership, report, report, report,” he said.

“No matter if you’re a resident, a business owner, is finding the avenue to communicate.”

Accurate communication and data, he says, are key to helping set priorities for allocation of resources.

“A lot of times, folks don’t want to get involved, and the reality of it is, to make a change, you’ve got to get involved and you’ve got to be willing to put that time in,” said Rideout, adding people are wondering if it’s worth the effort.

“It has to be, I think, to move forward. If everybody takes a little bit of action and we can all support one another, we can move forward and find success.”

Coun. Greenlaw represents council on the chamber executive and has been involved in meetings with the chamber and other stakeholders, including Bockus, the regional service commission and RCMP.

Greenlaw believes the work the chamber is doing to be a part of the discussion and solutions is helpful, and that the role the chamber is playing in communicating with members and collecting data is valuable. He is concerned that, even though parties are starting to talk, various groups involved are still not working in co-ordination. He would like to see a facilitated session with all stakeholders at the table, including from the province in the form of public safety and justice.

The result, said Greenlaw, would be “a roadmap of how to handle some of these issues and an integrated action plan as to how we are going to actually start fixing some of these things.”

There would need to be members of the community involved as well.

“They would have to have input into it so the governmental agencies understand the impact on the community,” said the councillor.

One of the benefits of this approach, says Greenlaw, would be to concentrate on the facts in order to allocate resources to the proper activities, which would include enhanced access to mental health services, addiction support and related social services.