Newly appointed RCMP staff sergeant, Kirsten Marshall, explained how she plans to make the Smithers’ Community Policing Office (CPO) more efficient at a meeting last week.
As Staff Sgt. of the Smithers RCMP detachment Marshall is responsible for the coordinating the CPO.
After going over the local volunteer list of all the various programs provided by the CPO with Matt Davey, prevention and community safety officer, Marshall was surprised to see how many volunteers supported the CPO.
“There were a lot of people I didn’t even know were volunteers,” Staff Sgt. Marshall said.
“I see a core group of volunteers most of the time, but there are a lot of faces I am not familiar with.”
That sentiment is echoed by Davey.
“I’m the volunteer coordinator and sometimes I can’t even put a face to a name,” Davey said at the meeting.
In fact, there are over 60 volunteers on the CPO list, which organizers view as a blessing.
Nonetheless there is work to be done, according to Marshall.
“I don’t think we fully utilize our volunteers to meet local strategic goals,” Marshall said regarding over-arching policing targets set by the RCMP.
“Every community has issues with impaired driving, violence in relationships and substance abuse and those things unfortunately will never go away.”
Marshall wants volunteers in Smithers to understand that their role is to support the RCMP not serve as law enforcement.
The CPO runs several programs in Smithers, including: Citizens on Patrol (C.O.P.), Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), Speedwatch, Crimestoppers and several youth mentoring programs in cooperation with the RCMP, the latter established to bridge the gap between youth and the RCMP.
Marshall said she would like to see some of the existing programs at the CPO combined to enable better coverage and to streamline services to the community.
The only closed program to date is Crimestoppers, where they have a specific group of citizens involved, all other programs have presently flexible membership.
“I’m open to suggestions and input for ideas to make our community safer through volunteer support,” Marshall said.
One possible solution is not to restrict volunteers to one specific program, according to Davey.
“When what we have is a bunch of concerned citizens who may be open to covering other areas,” Davey said.
Unlike other communities, property crime and vehicle theft are relatively low in Smithers, which means RCMP and volunteer efforts can be focused elsewhere, Marshall explained.
Furthermore, Marshall said, the Highway of Tears is a focal point for the RCMP and has asked the CPO to maintain vigilance whenever they see hitchhikers on Highway 16.
“People go missing while hitchhiking because nobody is keeping track of them,” Marshall said.
“Recording that you saw someone hitchhiking, going to speak to them and writing down what they looked like and the time would greatly increase the RCMP’s ability to track vulnerable people.”
A program that the CPO wants to develop in Smithers is Blockwatch, a get-to-know-your-neighbour program that encourages cooperation and awareness in a neighbourhood.
The problem with most Blockwatch programs, which are all outside town limits, is they are set up after crimes have occurred.
Both Marshall and Davey want the Smithers community to become less reactive than it has been in the past.
For more information on how you can become a volunteer in contact the Smithers Community Policing Office at 250-847-6179.