Sherbrooke inaugurates new “neutral zone”
The City of Sherbrooke and the Sherbrooke Police inaugurated a new “neutral zone” for safe exchanges between citizens on Wednesday afternoon in front of the city’s police headquarters on Maurice-houle Street.
“This space is safe because of its location,” said Sherbrooke Mayor Steve Lussier, explaining that the two adjacent parking spots are monitored by a high definition camera 24 hour a day, offering citizens who are concerned for their safety in an exchange of goods, peace of mind. Lussier said that he was inspired to bring the idea to Sherbrooke after seeing a similar concept implemented in Bromont last summer. “I considered the idea very good and asked our services to analyze it."
Sandy Robitaille, Inspector for criminal investigations with the Bromont Police, said that her community, in turn, was inspired by an initiative run by the Abbotsford police in British Colombia.
“The only difference is that they film 24 hours a day and have someone watching
the videos live,” Robitaille said. “We film, but there is no one designated person watching.”
“If I have a transaction with someone and it goes poorly, my reflex is to call the police,” said Bromont Mayor Louis Villeneuve. “In this case (the police) can refer to the video.”
Robitaille explained that a direct line to the on-duty Police is set up 30 feet from the Bromont zone, offering those who feel slighted an easy way to flag their concerns and get someone to check the tape. The service, she said, has proven especially popular outside of regular hours, for exchanges in the evening or on weekends.
Danielle Berthold, Sherbrooke’s Deputy Mayor and chair of the city’s Public security committee, highlighted the value of having s uch a space in the city in an age where people often buy things from strangers on the internet and don’t always feel comfortable meeting to exchange money or goods in their own homes. She also pointed out that the space is useful for parents in stressful or challenging custody agreements, as it provides a neutral space to meet.
“The neutral encounter zone can help to prevent crime, as these exchanges will take place in a safe environment,” Berthold said.
According to Sherbrooke Police Chief Danny Mcconnell, the camera installed to monitor the space is high definition and can easily read license plates and help identify faces.
The neutral zone is free and requires no reservation.