After meetings between the Smithers RCMP, the Town of Smithers, the merchants of Smithers, and calls for action from the public regarding crime in downtown Smithers and rural areas of the Bulkley Valley, a public information meeting has been called to re-energize the group, Citizens On Patrol (COP).
The informational meeting is set for Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Sunshine Inn meeting room in Smithers, and is open to anyone interested in joining. The RCMP have a member who will be in attendance along with Smithers’ new community safety and bylaw officer, Perry Lewin.
According to Lewin, the COP program office will be run from the Community Safety Office on First Avenue in Smithers, but it will be run with the RCMP point person in charge overall.
“The need for volunteers is the first step in the process of re-building the organization again. What I’ve been told is that 20 volunteers would be great for a community the size of Smithers, to spread out the load of observing,” said Grant Harris, the facilitator of the meeting.
According to Harris, reviving the idea of maintaining a COP organization was one of several ideas that came from meetings over the summer with merchants and RCMP as well as other organizations. One idea put into action, was an app created for the business community to help keep watch on each others businesses, and advise each other of crimes being committed in their locations.
“As far as I understand, COP members are not to engage if they see a crime in progress, they’re not to stop the commission of a crime, they’re there to observe, record and report. Like the neighborhood watch,” said Harris.
“Citizens On Patrol puts more eyes out in the community that are there for observation, not confrontation, and this lets the people assist the law with their own hands, not take the law into their own hands.”
Smithers Mayor, Gladys Atrill has participated in several meetings with RCMP, merchants and citizens over the summer and fall months, looking for solutions to help in the uptick in property crime in Smithers and area.
“I am very pleased with the initiative to restart a local Citizens on Patrol. Smithers had an active COP group for many years, though, as with many organizations, the volunteer base diminished over time,” Atrill said. “It is great to see the interest again. I know the people organizing the meeting have the support of the RCMP and the Town bylaw - community safety officer.
“Residents and business owners have been frustrated recently by crime in town and Citizens on Patrol provides a way for people to be involved in keeping the community safe by having extra eyes on the streets and by having improved communication with the RCMP.”