Hudson ferry traffic and the SQ - creating a police force?
YLJ FILE PHOTO
Q. On some weekends it is total gridlock near the ferry from Hudson to Oka, at the corner of Main and Bellevue. Cars take the opposite lane to get around the waiting cars. Then they meet head on in one lane. I hardly ever see the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) there to direct traffic. Everybody just reluctantly breaks the law to get around the long string of waiting cars. Sometimes during weekdays, I see two SQ officers with radar detectors pointing at the steepest hill in Hudson on Bellevue to check the speed of cars exceeding 40 km/h. It’s the same thing going down a hill on Cameron. Can we tell the SQ to work where we want? Apparently, I am overpaying for this level of SQ service. Can we have our own police force if this continues?
A. I asked the SQ about this situation. They are looking at solutions with the municipality such as signage. They advised that citizens should call them when they see something illegal or if they themselves encounter a problem. Citizens should also share their thoughts with the mayor and local council.
After digesting all that, I researched why sharing thoughts with local council would be a good idea.
The Police Act provides the Municipalité régionale de comté (MRC) is the signing party to the regional contract for SQ services, not each municipality. These long-term contracts provide for the type of services and the number of police officers in each part of the territory of the MRC. Citizens can have their voice heard through an MRC committee where each municipality is represented by one of its elected officials. They discuss the level of police services provided and where services are needed.
It is obvious that on a day-to-day basis resources should be allocated by the SQ to problem areas where the likelihood of accidents, gridlock, or crime is highest. I don’t understand all of the mysteries of police work so I can’t really comment about the radar traps.
It is understandable however that your question leads to wondering if there is a cost benefit to starting a police force. There are a few precedents.
In the municipality of Mercier, they just formed the smallest police force in the province with 19 officers and 11 vehicles (Dodge Chargers and Fords at a cost of $380,000) for its 13,150 inhabitants. More than 500 people signed a registry and despite opposition from the Châteauguay police that used to provide Mercier with police services, the movement finally succeeded. They expect their police costs of $3.5 million a year to go down to $2.5 million.
Not all towns succeed. Chambly, a town of 29,000, was refused by the Public Security Minister last year for reasons not elaborated and they went to court trying to figure out what happened.
The Police Act provides that a municipality that is served by the Sûreté du Québec and whose population is below 50,000 inhabitants can be authorized by the Minister, after a public consultation, to be served by a municipal police force (with compulsory levels of service and equipment based on population and proximity to Montreal).
So, there you go. Small can be beautiful. Goodbye Walmarts. Movements like tiny houses, businesses like Uber and Airbnb with individual entrepreneurs, show that the community spirit is increasingly growing in small garden plots, literally. Maybe this movement will extend to small police forces responding closely to the wishes and expectations of the small communities they serve. Cost is often another factor behind the small is beautiful movement. In our region, with SQ costs per citizen amongst the highest in the province, it may be a new road to explore.
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