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‘Despite what has occurred, it’s still a very safe community,’ says Const. MacDonald


NEW GLASGOW – A brutal stabbing that occurred last weekend has caught the nation’s attention and has left New Glasgow and the county shaken.

Stephen Halliday, Pictou County District RCMP commander, left, and Sgt. Kevin Dunlevy, operations NCO, review crime stats for the county. Halliday said while recent violent crimes may make the county seem unsafe, it is a safe place and great community. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

Many are asking themselves how something like this could happen here.

 

SAFETY IN NEW GLASGOW

While the stabbing of Scott Jones that has left him paralyzed is on people’s minds, Const. Ken MacDonald of the New Glasgow Regional Police Service believes we need to step back for a moment from this tragedy.

“Despite what has occurred, it’s still a very safe community,” he said. “In the downtown, a stabbing or police officer getting sprayed are isolated and rare incidents.”

Jones was stabbed in downtown New Glasgow early on Saturday morning and has been left paralyzed from the waist down. In another incident, a traffic control person conducting duties for road construction in New Glasgow’s business district was sprayed in the face with an unknown irritant by a motorist who then fled past him on Tuesday.

MacDonald said people should be wary what they hear about the Jones stabbing on social media and other websites.

“This info may not be 100 per cent accurate. When we have the necessary info, we send a media release and the information is disseminated through media outlets,” he said. “Sometimes we have to wait to make sure all of our ducks are in a row but we want to make sure we’re right.”

Despite what some and friends have stated, allegations that the stabbing was a hate crime haven’t been confirmed by police and the accused, 19-year-old Shane Matheson, hasn’t been charged with a hate crime.

“Charges have been laid based on the evidence. Could more evidence come forward? Maybe, but not at this time.”

 

SAFETY IN PICTOU COUNTY

Outside New Glasgow, Trenton, Stellarton and Westville, Pictou County’s policing is handled by the Pictou County District RCMP.

Stephen Halliday, Pictou County District RCMP commander, and Sgt. Kevin Dunlevy, operations NCO, note that while previous violent crimes can come to mind in light of the stabbing in New Glasgow, it doesn’t denote a trend.

“People will recall Amber Kirwan in 2011 and the McNamara homicide a few years back,” said Halliday. “But violent crime doesn’t relatively often happen here in Pictou County. There have been some high profile incidents which may lead people to believe it’s a violent place but comparatively it’s not.”

He said that, generally speaking, violent crime can happen any day of the week and that it’s very difficult to predict. The larger group or concentration of people, the greater the risk increases.

“In concentrated areas like, Pictou, New Glasgow or Halifax, police receive more calls for services. We’re there to provide 24-hour policing in the entire county.”

Pictou County District RCMP have various tools at their disposal to try to prevent and combat crime.

“We use stats to direct patrols to specific areas based on historical data. We’re fortunate to have a crime data analyst so we can look at where we should be and when,” said Dunlevy. “In some areas we have foot patrols and it’s amazing what you can see and hear just by walking about.”

While large swaths of the county are rural, the police still have population centres including the Town of Pictou, Thorburn, River John and Caribou. Maintaining safety in the county requires the co-operation of all police forces.

“We work closely with New Glasgow, Stellarton and Westville police to prevent and mitigate violent acts,” said Halliday.

 

PARAMEDIC PERSPECTIVE

John Sanford has worked as a paramedic in Northern Nova Scotia, including New Glasgow for 35 years. He currently works in Truro at the EHS main office.

“New Glasgow is definitely a busy area. Each day of the week is very busy,” Sanford said.

Throughout the week, calls are typically related to heath issues, such as shortness of breath or chest pains and the occasional motor vehicle accident. Weekends are when calls about falls, injuries or alcohol or drug consumption are at their highest.

“Overall, calls related to drugs and alcohol have gone up but also their severity.”

Last year, he noted that the particular drug that caused the greatest concern was bath salts. For situations where violence is an actual or potential threat, paramedics have to play it safe.

“We ask the police to go before we get there since we’re not equipped for that,” said Sanford. “Is it stressful? Absolutely.”

Halliday said that, at the end of the day, crime can happen to anyone and the best thing we can do is manage risk.

“Be aware of suspicious activity and don’t leave yourself vulnerable. Every person has the right to be free from harassment, insults and violence,” he said. “If anyone feels threatened they have the right to contact the authorities.”

 

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

 

FACTBOX: CRIME IN NEW GLASGOW

 

In 2012, 3,121 incidents of police-reported crime occurred in New Glasgow, as compared to 2,987 in 2011, and 60,042 for the province as a whole. Of those violations, 787 were incidents of violent crime, 1,818 were incidents of property crime and 516 were incidents of other types of reported crime.

 

Rate of Violent Crime

In 2012, the rate of violent crime was 169 per 10,000 population, down 4.5 per cent from 2011 when the rate was 177 per 10,000 population. The rate of violent crime in New Glasgow is higher than the provincial rate of 137 per 10,000 population.

 

YOUTH CRIME

The number of youth accused of crime includes both youth charged with a Criminal Code offence and those diverted through extrajudicial measures.

 

In 2012, there were 458 youth in New Glasgow accused of a Criminal Code offence, which is up from 2011 when 396 youth were accused. For Nova Scotia as a whole, there were 5,492 youth accused of a Criminal Code offence in 2012.

 

Rate of Youth Accused of Violent Crime

In 2012, there were 126 youth in New Glasgow accused of committing a violent crime, which is up from 2011 when 120 youth were accused. For Nova Scotia as a whole, there were 1,715 youth accused of committing a violent crime in 2012.

 

The overall rate of youth accused of committing a violent crime was 396 per 10,000 population in 2012, up 7.9% from 2011 when the rate was 367 per 10,000 population. The overall rate of youth accused of committing a violent crime for New Glasgow in 2012 was higher than the provincial rate of 276 per 10,000 population.

 

Source: Statistics Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia

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