Volunteers continue to pour hours of time into community policing programs in Williams Lake.
However, all the programs could use additional help.
Safer communities coordinator Dave Dickson told city council at its regular meeting Oct. 23, there are about 30 to 40 active members giving 1,200 hours of time to restorative justice, alone.
“We just finished a training session with more volunteers. Unfortunately we just get people up to speed and trained and they want to retire or move. It’s an ongoing thing. We’re incredibly grateful for them,” Dickson said.
Speedwatch volunteers have been partnering with the RCMP’s four auxiliaries and regular members.
“We’re out there, we’re creating awareness, but people sort of mock us because we don’t give out tickets. Surprise —news flash. We will have members periodically deal with the Speedwatch group and if you come zipping through, you may see a few officers step out and give out a ticket,” Dickson said.
A hot spot, Dickson added, is over by Marie Sharpe Elementary School. “If you’re travelling through there, or any speed zone, please slow down. Our children are precious.”
Citizens on Patrol and the auxiliaries have also been partnering up to walk down streets where crimes occur, checking vehicles and letting vehicle owners know there’s been a spike in auto crime.
“We might tell them we notice they have a Dodge or Chevrolet truck and to make sure they keep it safe. We also tell that leaving valuables visible in a vehicle is a bad idea. We’ve had some very good feedback about it and I’m sure we will continue to make the patrols.”
Dickson recently returned from an international Crime Stoppers conference, and heard of ways to market and promote the program.
“To quote one of the superintendents of the RCMP who was there, Crime Stoppers is number three. Number one is fingerprints, number two is DNA, and number three is Crime Stoppers as the most effective tools for aggressive policing,” Dickson said.
One of the most troubling things Dickson heard at the workshop was the increase in human trafficking of children.
Drugs is still number one, but trafficking of children is rapidly going up.
“If we think we don’t have a problem in our community, we’ve got our heads in the sand. It is shocking what’s going on,” Dickson told council, adding he’d like to meet at another time and venue to further discuss the problem.
Business Watch continues to be active, and at the provincial level has realize it needs to ramp up its programs. “There are five Business Watch programs in the province and we’re bringing them together to share best practices so we can be more in sync. We don’t have to recreate the wheel in all five communities. I think you will see more tips and suggestions coming forward.”
Dickson is pursuing his level two in crime prevention and environmental design, which will enable him to work with some of his volunteers to give them the basis to go out and help home and business owners make their properties safer.
“Hopefully by the new year we’ll have a group of people ready to go,” Dickson said.
Operation Red Nose will run again this year, offering nine evenings of transportation during the holiday season beginning on Nov. 30. “We’ve been given the phone number 250-392-2222 this year so that’s bonus. We’ll be sending more information about the program later,” Dickson added.
Community policing board chair Andy Sullivan was among 100 to 200 people that attended a provincial Citizens On Patrol conference in Nanaimo two weeks ago.
“We heard the speakers from the RCMP talk about the new legislation around drinking and driving and how you can make your downtown less inviting for criminals,” Sullivan said.
Nanaimo has cleaned up its downtown and Sullivan said it’s a joy to walk through there now.
Social media was heralded as a means to share information with the public, and a session on recruiting and retention of volunteers, gave Sullivan lots to bring back to the COP program.
“It was a good opportunity to network with other groups about what they are doing. We have by far the best dialogue with the RCMP of anyone I talked to. I know that’s one of Warren Brown’s objectives — to have good dialogue between the COPs and the RCMP,” Sullivan said. Sullivan the other community policing programs such as Circles of Strength, working with families in reported cases of spousal abuse, Violence Awareness, Mounted Citizens on Patrol, Block Watch and Realty Watch also need more volunteers.
Anyone wanting more information can call Sullivan at 250-303-0298 or Dickson at 250-392-8701.