Saint John — Uptown Saint John residents are demanding answers after reports that another federal offender is on the lam from the Parrtown Community Correctional Centre.
Bruce Perkins, 25, is just the latest parolee who has failed to return to the Port City halfway house after promising to do so on Feb. 21.
Uptown resident Mabel McMillan, who lives a few blocks away, said the news is becoming a familiar occurrence — and one she’s getting tired of.
“Every week or two it seems there’s a report of these guys being unlawfully at large. We’re told not to approach and to contact police because they could be armed and dangerous. It’s frightening for an 88-year-old gal like me.”
According to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) website, facilities like Parrtown are valuable for rehabilitation and reintegration — despite the fact some inmates walk away and don’t return. In 2019, CSC reported just under 50 cases of halfway house inmates being unlawfully at large to Saint John Police, or almost one per week as McMillan suggested.
“It’s not hard to understand a lot of these guys don’t return,” she said. “But I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around why so many of these bums end up in Saint John in the first place.”
It’s a question that appeared on the City Council’s agenda at its Feb. 24 meeting after concerned citizens raised the issue. Mayor Don Darling told The Manatee that while corrections is a federal issue outside of his control, Saint John does its best to see the silver lining in every situation.
“If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times. Population growth is one of the City of Saint John’s key priorities, and our city is committed to being the most welcoming community in Atlantic Canada. So long as they’re on the run buying cigarettes and beef jerky and whatnot, it might as well be in the Port City.”
Darling reassured citizens that Saint John’s finest are keeping a close eye on the situation and that most of the inmates won’t bother you if you don’t bother them.
“Police say these are not the sophisticated, criminal masterminds you might see on a Netflix documentary series. Truth be told many of them are bumbling nincompoops — the types who rob banks with their parents’ car, for example.”
But McMillan says that’s of little comfort to residents.
“It’s not all small potatoes. Some of these guys are real creeps. We’ve had guys with cute nicknames like the motorcycle rapist move in next door, and other sexual predators deemed a high risk to re-offend. These are people that other provinces flat-out rejected. I’m all for rehabilitation but as long as authorities believe they still pose a risk, they should not be free.”
When reached for comment, Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long shrugged.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve been saying for quite some time now. There were cuts made in the Harper years to the number of parole officers in correctional facilities like that. I can still blame Harper, right?”
Police remind citizens not to approach fugitives and that vigilantism will not be tolerated. Instead, they urge you to call the Saint John Police Force or Crime Stoppers.