Esk'etemc community praised for proactive approach on crime

Crime reduction panel chair Darryl Plecas said he was inspired and impressed after visiting Williams Lake and Alkali Lake last week.

On Thursday and Friday Plecas and members of the provincial Blue Ribbon Panel on Crime Reduction were in the Cariboo.

“Everybody is working toward the same goal and together,” he said of the efforts in Williams Lake.

“That’s not to say there aren’t challenges but it was good to see a community response.”

That community response involves not only the RCMP, but the schools, volunteers and people from different sectors in the community, he explained.

“There are incredible things happening in Williams Lake and things that aren’t happening that people say should be happening. We left the presentation saying to ourselves, the people of Williams Lake need no lessons on how to reduce crime, they know what they are doing. They just need some help with putting things in place which help them do what they want to do better.”

The RCMP told the panel they can only do so much, Plecas said.

“It’s not just about arresting people, it’s about helping people and I think that’s the key word that would describe the people in Williams Lake. Everybody’s pointed toward helping people.”

Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake) has done a “remarkable” job as a community to nearly eliminate substance abuse, Plecas said.

“There’s a very low level of substance abuse in that community. They’re putting in place the kinds of things which reduce the likelihood that someone will be involved in criminal activity in the first place and be helpful to people who ultimately get caught up in criminality.”

It’s an example that all First Nations and non-First Nations communities could emulate, he added.

“Theirs is a whole of community perspective that involves everybody. If you aren’t involved as a working stakeholder, you’re involved as a mentor.”

The community also has a strong commitment to restorative justice and a recovery-based perspective on substance abuse, Plecas said.

“They have a very deep understanding and recognition that if you ever want to come to grips with substance abuse issues you have to do that by being especially attentive to trauma. And for people in First Nations communities that relates back to residential school issues.”

Esk’etemc has reached out to bring youth who have run into troubles with substance abuse or crime in bigger centres back home to the community or get them into school.

“It’s a very proactive approach,” Plecas said.

At the end of the day, the most significant measurement of their success is to ask what percentage of people in the community are in the midst of alcohol and drug abuse and what percentage of the people are involved with crime.

After the panel completes its visits of communities across the province it will prepare a “do” report, Plecas said.

“It’s not going to contain a long list of recommendations. Our goal is to have a list of very actionable recommendations.”


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