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Smithers Citizens on Patrol program on track to start in summer

Approximately 40 volunteers needed to properly staff the program
Concerned community members packed the meeting room at the Sunshine Inn in Smithers Nov. 3 for the information meeting regarding the Citizens on Patrol program. (Deb Meissner photo)

For those who may have wondered if Citizen on Patrol (COP) is moving forward in Smithers, Staff Sgt. Mark Smaill, from the Smithers RCMP detachment, is positive the community will have an active program by summer if not before.

“We are currently going through all the security checks necessary for those who have volunteered, and next is training,” Smaill said.

“We are still accepting and looking for volunteers, and perhaps a community member who would have an interest in being the lead for the community group,” he advised.

READ MORE: Citizens on Patrol meeting attracts large turn-out

To run several shifts, the program would need approximately 40 volunteers. The time for volunteering is flexible and does not have to take being on a shift for a large amount of time.

“If people are only able to volunteer a couple hours a month, or one evening or day a month or week, the COP program needs those volunteers too,” Smaill said.

Originally formed in 1993 after a rash of crime in the downtown core of Smithers, the COP group had rotating foot and eventually vehicle patrols. With a van donated by Frontier Chrysler and other community partners, the group was easily identifiable and acted as a deterrent to crime in the downtown core of Smithers.

“We look to the community to be our eyes and ears, to work together to come up with solutions to make the community a safer place to be,” said Smaill, who went on to note the COP group is only one of the community groups the RCMP would like to see initiated in the Smithers and Telkwa communities.

One of the other groups would be Blockwatch in individual neighbourhoods. In Blockwatch, each neighbourhood would have a “champion” in charge of organizing their block. There are signs that can be put in place making people aware when they are in Blockwatch areas and that the communities overall are “Blockwatch Communities,” notifying the public that citizens work along with the RCMP in these areas to prevent crime.

In November, an informational meeting was held for the public regarding the need to once again establish the COP program, after a recent rise in crime.

Representatives from both Smithers and the Village of Telkwa councils were on hand, along with merchants and concerned citizens, to hear how the program would be run in coordination with the Smithers RCMP.

The Town of Smithers is also actively seeking a new Bylaw and Community Safety Officer in Smithers, who will also eventually work on the COP program with the RCMP.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call the RCMP non-emergency number at 250 847-3233, or stop in at the Smithers detachment.

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Grant Harris (standing) organized an informational meeting for Citizens on Patrol program in Smithers, Nov. 3. (Deb Meissner photo)