Cst. Shawn Baird (standing) is the Citizens of Patrol liaison for the RCMP in Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)

Cst. Shawn Baird (standing) is the Citizens of Patrol liaison for the RCMP in Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)

Citizens on Patrol meeting attracts large turn-out

Program hopes to attract around 40 volunteers

It was standing room only at the Sunshine Inn meeting room Nov. 3 for the first informational meeting of the Citizens on Patrol (COP) organization.

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, and the Community Safety Office in Smithers.

Bruce Bobick from the original COP program in Smithers, Grant Harris publisher of the Interior News and organizer of the event, Perry Lewin, Smithers bylaw and community safety officer, Smithers RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Mark Smaill, and Cst. Shawn Baird, were all in attendance to discuss their roles in this program and to answer questions from the public.

The volunteer organization is at an all-time low, Bobick said. He along with his wife Marg and another couple are pretty much it at the moment.

READ MORE:Citizens on patrol still operating, but greatly diminished

“Just a few years ago with over 40 volunteers, the Smithers COP group was the envy of other towns in B.C.,” Staff Sgt. Smaill said. “We are looking to be that again.”

COVID-19 and volunteer burnout were essentially the death knell for the group.

Recent upticks in burglaries, theft, and various other crimes, however, has generated the impetus for the group to become re-energized.

Orginally formed in 1993 after a rash of crime in the downtown core of Smithers, the group would have 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 deterent.

“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 say the COP group is only one of the community groups the RCMP would like to see initiated in the Smithers and Telkwa communities.

Two of the other groups would be Blockwatch and Speedwatch. 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.

Speedwatch was not explained at this meeting, but is basically an educational program in which volunteers monitor traffic and remind motorists to slow down. Depending on the jurisdiction, they can report licence plates to police and repeat offenders will receive a letter reminding them of the law.

All three groups assist the RCMP to identify problem areas and act as visible deterrents to those considering committing crimes.

COP will be run from the community policing office on First Street in Smithers, which is where people may also sign up. The office is open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and people are encouraged to go there to get information and to sign up for the various programs. This will also be the office where training takes place, and be the operational centre.

“With the use of the COP van, people see the vehicle,” said Lewin. It gives some ownership. It shows that the community has taken an active role in their own safety. We’re not just putting it all on the RCMP. In having enough volunteers to mobilize the van, but to also conduct foot patrols with jackets that make the volunteers visible and identifiable, it gives community members a sense of doing something to help in the community.”

The panel also fielded numerous questions from the public, one of the most discussed being what the time commitment would be.

The answer from all involved with the panel was with enough people, the minimum time could be two hours once a month, allowing for people to fit the times into their own schedules. It also allows for more random patrols, running both night and day.

There is a criminal check required to be a volunteer, and training will be provided.

“The first thing we need to do is have people sign up, either at the community safety office, by calling the Smithers town office at 250-847-1600 or you can call the RCMP non-emergency number at 250 847-3233,” said Lewin.



deb.meissner@interior-news.com

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

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

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