The borough of Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles currently has two stations: one in RDP and one in PAT. The stations will be merged into one as a cost-cutting measure.
Community leaders say it's a bad idea.
“Taking out the police force, or pushing them away from us, I think is a recipe for disaster,” said Theo Vecera, director at the Don Bosco Youth Leadership Centre.
The bilingual community centre is located in RDP, and holds activities for people from the ages of 4 to 25.
Theo Vecera says since the news about the closure of Station 45, he's been getting calls every day from worried residents and parents. Vecera, a father of four, says he feels the same way.
“I'm really concerned … I want to feel safe that there's regular supervision of the police and I'm afraid that the response times for situations are going to be extended,” he said.
Station 45 is located on a main thoroughfare in RDP — near the corner of Maurice-Duplessis Blvd. and 27th Ave. The merger will mean a move to St-Jean Baptiste Blvd, which is about 8 kilometres away.
“That's another 15 minutes. Anything can happen in one minute — imagine 15 minutes,” Vecera said.
Vecera also said the community police officers are well-known in the neighbourhood and do a lot of outreach work with youth in RDP, which is one of the fastest-growing communities in the city. He’s worried the merger will mean fewer familiar faces patrolling the streets.
Response times not affected, officials say
Montreal police officials did not agree to a formal interview, saying they want to meet with residents first, but a police official told CBC News over the phone that the merger is strictly an administrative move. The sector will go from having two police chiefs and two secretaries, to having one of each — all working under one roof.
Borough mayor Chantal Rouleau said Montreal Police Chief Marc Parent guaranteed that after the RDP station closes, there will still be the same number of police officers patrolling the streets.
“Having one or two buildings won't change anything. The most important is to have our police officers on the field working with the people,” Rouleau said.
Street gangs and violent crimes
Station 45 opened in RDP in 1998.
Community leader Pierreson Vaval says he remembers what it was like before the station opened — problems with drugs, street gangs and violence.
Police statistics show since 2001, the number of reported crimes dropped by 20 per cent.
“They don't know where we've been through — where we're coming from — and I'm asking them to think twice. Think again — It's very important,” said Vaval, the founder and director of ÉquipeRDP, a community organization that works largely with Haitian youth.
“We still need to work. We still need to be vigilant because we're not in a situation where we can say that these [issues] won't come back again in the community.”
Community meeting next week
City officials planned to meet with residents in the coming weeks, but Vecera and Vaval say they’ve heard from so many upset residents that they decided to organize a public meeting next week.
““This is not an Italian problem or a Haitian problem or a Francophone problem. This is a community problem … so we're mobilizing all together — all the beautiful cultures — and we want the citizens to express their voice. I think it's important the police force, our local mayor and the elected officials say what needs to be said, and hear the citizens,” Vecera said, adding that the riding’s MNA Marc Tanguay is also expected to attend.
The meeting will take place Friday, Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the Centre Récréatif RDP.