BELLEVILLE – A majority of Belleville residents are positive about how the Belleville Police Service  is handling important issues, a new survey conducted by Loyalist College journalism students suggests.
Citizens from all parts of Belleville were asked to rate the police on a scale of one to five. The rating was to be based on the police department’s performance on the issue that each respondent had identified as being most important. A rating of four was the most popular response, at 45 per cent, followed by 29 per cent of respondents rating police at three and 13 per cent at five. Overall, the average rating was 3.5.
The survey was conducted by Loyalist College journalism in partnership with the police service . Respondents were asked six questions provided by the police about the job they are doing and how they could improve. The seventh and final question, asking residents to rank police service between one and five, was formulated by the journalism students.
Deputy Chief of Police Ron Gignac told QNet News Monday that the positive ratings stem from the rapport police have fostered with the community.
“There’s a unique knowledge and relationship that has been forged here with the police service,” Gignac said. “They know our officers care.”
But he added that the police service wants to continue to improve and build off of the feedback from the survey.
“It’s a good marker for us and it is positive, but we still have work to do because we didn’t get a five out of five,” Gignac said. “Is there always room for improvement? Yes. That’s why we’re running this survey with our citizens.”
Gignac was hired as deputy chief last summer, and is to become chief of police Jan. 1, 2017, when current chief Cory MacKay retires.
The responses to the survey will be used in the Belleville Police’s Community Safety Plan, a strategic outline for how the service will operate over the next three years.
Several themes emerged over the survey as people were asked what areas the Belleville Police need to improve on. Common responses included a need for increased police visibility and presence.
“I can count on one hand in the last 18 years that I have lived in this house the number of times I’ve seen a cruiser on my street,” said one respondent in the west end of Belleville, who, like all respondents, remained anonymous.
“We’re talking about the safety of the community,” said another respondent. “I would like to see more cruisers on the side streets. I’d like to see patrolling officers downtown on the main street. I want to see a visible presence.”
To these responses, Gignac said the police are aware of the issue and want to work at it.
“Visibility is one of those things that we want to be good at. We want to provide visibility in the best possible forms, whether that be foot borne or vehicle borne. We do want to do that.”
Gignac added that an officer was assigned to do downtown patrolling and community engagement this past year, but resource constraints make it so the police force cannot be omnipresent in the city.
Concerns about traffic, including speedsters and people running red lights, were also highlighted by several respondents.
“One area that needs a change is the traffic department,” noted one person surveyed. “Constantly I see people going through red lights and stop signs – and there never seem to be an officer doing anything about it.”
Gignac said the force added another officer to the traffic unit  this year and there is a plan to expand the unit again in 2017 to help address concerns about traffic issues.
In addition to the survey, the Belleville Police are holding two town hall meetings to gather information and feedback from residents about their service.
The meetings will take place on Wednesday, April 13, at the Gerry Masterson Community Centre, 516 Harmony Rd. in Thurlow Ward, and Thursday, April 14, at the Parkdale Community Centre, 119 Birch St. Both sessions run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.