Woodstock police launch new investigative unit as calls for service increase
September 25, 2023 By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sep. 25, 2023, Woodstockm N.B. – Woodstock’s police chief noted a 6.7 per cent increase in calls for service this year over last, including a 47 per cent spike in intimate-partner violence during his third-quarter report to council on Sept. 12.
Chief Gary Forward expressed particular concern about the dramatic jump in intimate-partner violence.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” he said during his presentation at the council-in-committee meeting.
The 47 per cent increase represents a jump over the same time span, from 154 calls in 2022 to 226 in 2023.
Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones noted the high number of intimate partner violence calls when she participated in the Take Back The Night march on Sept. 15. The march is part of an annual worldwide movement to bring awareness and education to sexual and domestic violence.
“That works out to almost one call per day,” she said. “That’s a lot.”
Forward explained the 6.7 per cent increase in calls for service includes a 22 per cent jump in crimes against persons.
Property crime was the only area to see a decrease in year-to-date crime between 2022 and 2023, falling by 15 per cent.
The force’s stats show drug and firearms seizures saw 10 cases in 2022 compared to 11 in 2023.
On a positive note, Forward announced several measures to enhance the force’s service to residents.
Topping the list was the creation of the Street Crime Unit, a three-member plain-clothes investigative division headed by Staff Sgt. Jeff Matthews. His team includes Constables John Morrison and Joseph Clements.
Forward explained the unit would handle mid-level investigations, allowing uniformed officers to maintain a higher profile within the town.
He said unit members will also support the Integrated Enforcement Unit, comprised of Woodstock and other New Brunswick police departments battling drug, firearm and other crimes.
Forward explained the force continues to enhance its community visibility, especially during the summer months from May to September, with foot and bike patrols.
This summer, members conducted 23 uniformed bike patrols, 52 foot patrols, and 42 road safety checks.
The chief said strong communication between the Woodstock Police Force and the RCMP, which controls most of the Upper St. John River Valley, including all Woodstock wards outside Ward 4, the original town unites.
Forward explained that “intensified collaboration” gives all police members a better handle on the drug and gun crime prevalent throughout the province.
“I feel much better about knowing who’s out there and what they’re doing,” he said.
With the Woodstock police station already cramped, Forward explained it established the Street Crime Unit in the former council chambers next door in the Woodstock town hall.
In addition to the SCU, the space now houses the force’s operations, meeting, training and media centres.
On another positive note, Forward said he was proud to report the force is on target with its 2023 strategic plan.
With 75 per cent of the year completed, he said the force almost reached its administration goals. It is also ahead of schedule on intelligence sharing and gathering, enforcement and visibility, and equipment and training.
The plan update shows the force is close to target on partnerships and efficiencies but has to catch up on accountability and trust, education and communication, and wellness.
Mayor Jones welcomed Forward’s presentation, adding she and the chief will discuss the town’s policing in detail on Monday, Sept. 25, during an open house at the AYR Motor Centre Field House.
She encouraged all Woodstock residents to attend, including those from outside wards not presently patrolled by the town force.
Jones said the town is actively studying the possibility of expanding the Woodstock Police Force’s coverage area to the entire municipality, but those changes will take time.
She said the RCMP currently patrols the former LSDs, adding, “They’re not going anywhere soon”
– River Valley Sun
Print this page