Crime Is Spiking In Conception Bay North, And The RCMP's Pleas Are Getting A Cool Response | CBC News


The RCMP is asking the Newfoundland and Labrador government for additional help to bolster its law enforcement efforts in Conception Bay North following a surge last year in crime and mental health-related calls.

Justice minister slams door on increased funding, saying the RCMP needs to address vacancy rates

Terry Roberts · CBC News

· Posted: Feb 21, 2024 4:30 AM EST | Last Updated: February 21

Insp. David Ossinger is the officer in charge of RCMP police operations in Newfoundland from Lewisporte to St. John’s. He confirmed this week that the force is asking for additional funding from the provincial government so it can bolster policing services in Conception Bay North. (Terry Roberts/CBC)The RCMP is asking the Newfoundland and Labrador government for additional help to bolster its law enforcement efforts in Conception Bay North following a surge last year in crime and mental health-related calls.

But government leaders are giving a frosty response.

RCMP Insp. David Ossinger told CBC News this week there’s a need for more police officers and administrative support for detachments in Bay Roberts and Harbour Grace.

“We have asked for increases and those discussions are ongoing, but ultimately the decisions take place within the halls of government, not the RCMP,” said Ossinger, who is the force’s operations manager for a region that stretches from Lewisporte to St. John’s.

Justice and Public Safety Minister John Hogan, however, said the RCMP is “very well staffed” on the Avalon Peninsula in comparison to other regions of the province.

Two RCMP officers received minor injuries and two patrol vehicles were damaged after a 28-year-old man went on a rampage in Carbonear on Feb. 8 while driving a stolen SUV. (RCMP Newfoundland and Labrador)”It wouldn’t be worth continuing to allocate future funding in future budgets if they’re still empty positions and vacancy rates, which there are right now,” said Hogan, who said there is one vacant RCMP position in the Avalon North region. 

The RCMP receives $90 million annually from the provincial government, thanks to a $17-million increase two years ago that included funding for two new positions in Bay Roberts, Hogan added.

‘A very busy district’Ossinger acknowledged the request for more resources during a sit-down interview this week with CBC News. He was responding to concerns raised by members of the Joint Council of C.B.N., an umbrella group that advocates on behalf of 11 incorporated municipalities, along with a group of unincorporated local service districts, from Brigus to Victoria.

Ossinger said CBN is “a very busy district,” and he praised the work of the officers in the area when asked if they were overwhelmed.

“They’re producing incredible work, they’re working with a lot of confidence and I just want to do everything we can to support them,” he said.

John Hogan is Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of justice and public safety. (Department of Justice and Public Safety)RCMP statistics presented to the Joint Council during a Feb. 1 meeting reveal that calls for police assistance in the region spiked by nearly 14 per cent in 2023, from 6,824 to 7,778.

The increase reversed a three-year pattern in which calls for service were trending downward, said Ossinger.

He said officers are busy responding to road safety issues, mental health calls, and what he described as an insidious drug trade.

In order to cope, he said officers from other units are sometimes redeployed to the area, and what he called “contract police officers” — typically recently retired RCMP members — are hired on a temporary basis. He said the RCMP is also making “significant strides” with an aggressive recruiting campaign to fill a nationwide shortage in its ranks.

He said the call volume is being driven by the actions of “chronic and prolific offenders,” many of whom are “trapped in an addiction or crime cycle.”

“They’re the people who use violence and intimidation to threaten people into compliance with what they want. So drug debt collections and things like that, that seems to be what’s responsible for this spike lately and that’s where we’re putting the bulk of our attention,” he explained.

Numbers are ‘staggering,’ says municipal leaderIn December, there were 57 “persons offences,” 53 mental health cases and 19 impaired “occurrences,” as well as 35 vehicle collisions in the region, according to RCMP data.

It was an especially busy month for the Bay Roberts detachment, with the number of calls — 295 — up by 36 per cent compared to December 2022.

WATCH | People ‘trapped in their circumstances’ fuelling crime surge in Conception Bay North, say police: 

Crime is up in Conception Bay North. What’s the cause?People in Conception Bay North say their public safety is under threat. The RCMP confirms that calls for service in the area are at their highest level since 2020. We ask the officer in charge of the district to look behind the numbers and tell us what’s going on in the community.

“The numbers are pretty staggering,” said Ryan Snow, a South River town councillor who chairs the Joint Council.

Sam Slade, Carbonear’s deputy mayor, described the data as “frightful” and admitted the region is “not quite as safe as it used to be.”

Slade was complimentary of the work being done by the RCMP, but admitted he would “like to see more officers around.”

Hogan said policing is a priority for his department, and budgets for both the RCMP and RNC have increased in recent years.

A review of policing is also underway in the province, but there’s already been a shift in jurisdiction, with the RNC gradually expanding to regions outside of Corner Brook that were historically policed by the RCMP.

“It’s our hope that the recent expansion on the west coast will help ease pressure on the RCMP,” said Hogan, adding that the RCMP needs to address its officer shortage “before there’s further discussions about increasing budget.”

Mental health crisis unitSnow said the RCMP data proves there is a need for a mobile crisis response team in the region, which pairs mental health care workers with police officers when responding to mental health crises. A similar model is already used in other regions of the province.

Ryan Snow is a councillor with the Town of South River, and is chair of the Joint Council of Conception Bay North. The council represents 11 municipalities from Brigus to Victoria. (Terry Roberts/CBC)The data shows officers in Conception Bay North are responding to mental health calls on a daily basis, with 43 such occurrences recorded by the Harbour Grace detachment in October.

Short-staffed Mounties relax posting rule in effort to bolster N.L. ranks RNC expanding on Newfoundland’s west coast, citing Mountie shortage Municipal leaders like Snow believe a mobile crisis unit would allow police officers to focus more on crime fighting, and he’s confident that lobby efforts by groups like the joint council are being heard.

“We were told there’s a possibility it is in the [upcoming provincial] budget, but we have no confirmation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ossinger said RCMP personnel in the region are digging aggressively into the root causes of crime in the area, and some of the high profile cases that have made headlines in recent months are a reflection of that hard work.

“On the one hand, we’re doing well, we’re coping, but there is significant human resources pressure in this area,” he said.

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Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John’s. He previously worked for the Telegram, the Compass and the Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at

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