HARBOUR GRACE, NL — A familiar face returned to Harbour Grace council chambers Monday night to give an update on local police work.
Staff Sgt. Greg Hicks of the Harbour Grace RCMP detachment attended the regular council meeting. Hicks was stationed in Clarenville most recently, but before that he held the same position with the former Trinity-Conception detachment. He returned to Harbour Grace in September.
There are now 17 officers working out of the Harbour Grace detachment, and according to numbers compiled by Hicks, they've kept busy. Since Oct. 1, officers responded to 223 calls as of Monday. Fifty-two of those calls came from Harbour Grace, which is the second-largest community in the detachment's coverage area after Carbonear.
"That varies to anything from motor vehicle collisions, off-road vehicle complaints that we respond to, to assaults," said Hicks. "Thankfully, there hasn't been anything super serious that we haven't been able to deal with quite quickly."
Harbour Grace's commanding officer did however acknowledge the seriousness of recent fatal accidents on Veterans Memorial Highway, two of which claimed four lives within the last few weeks. Both accidents occurred on sections of the highway Bay Roberts RCMP is responsible for.
"For our detachment in Harbour Grace, we only cover about 15 kilometres of that highway, because we only go to the Spaniard's Bay town line," Hicks said.
Within the last month, Harbour Grace RCMP has responded to three collisions on the highway, two of which were moose-vehicle collisions.
"Nobody was hurt, thankfully," said Hicks.
On the hot-button topic of ATVs and off-road vehicles, Hicks admitted it's a problem he's witnessed with his own eyes. He added the detachment has not received a lot of calls about the matter this month.
"I think in some cases, people are just frustrated with it and they know in their minds there's not much the police can do," said Hicks. "What I would ask people to do is call and complain if they see a problem, because that's how we know where to put our resources and where the problems are. It's a huge safety concern for us."
Hicks also pointed out police will not chase a person riding an ATV simply because it's not safe to do so.
"The biggest danger I see — and I've seen it myself in just the last couple of weeks — is when they see a police car, they all of a sudden think we're chasing them and they take off. So what I've asked the guys to do is pull the car over, stop and go the other way, because I don't want to see anybody get hurt over something silly like that."
In Harbour Grace, police have laid charges in six cases within the last few months where ATV users were caught riding on roads when they shouldn't.
Council members later directed some questions to Hicks. Coun. Kathy Tetford spoke of witnessing teenagers out in the open last Friday smoking drugs with a bong.
"That's pretty bold, and that makes me (question) the mentality of some people in the town when it comes to drugs and what it means," she said. "Not a care in the world, walking up Water Street smoking drugs."
Hicks said the local detachment does have officers investigating drug files, noting too there are specialized units at a provincial level focused on the drug trade.
"Drugs are an issue everywhere, and some of the stuff you see with young people flaunting it now is that come next year … small amounts of marijuana will be legalized," he said. "And I'm not sure how that's going to play out in the province."
Getting into the schools to talk about drug abuse is something Hicks would like to see happen. Former community policing officer John Clarke, who often looked after those duties, is now in the process of retiring, and Hicks said his detachment and the one in Bay Roberts await his replacement.
"In the meantime, we're trying to utilize volunteers that we have," Hicks said.