The detachment is seeking volunteers for three community policing programs, but particularly for the Speed Watch and Citizens on Patrol (COPS) programs. Those programs have seen membership dwindle over the last few years, said Cst. Ambie Verbruggen, community policing/crime reduction officer for the Dawson Creek RCMP, and one of her priorities is to see more members of the community get involved.
“I think citizen involvement is very important,” said Verbruggen. “Having the numbers we have, the police can’t be everywhere and see everything, so having citizens out there with their eyes and ears, taking care of our city, is so important.”
She said Speed Watch involves training members of the public how to use radar equipment and record statistics to help police officers enforce speed limits, specifically in school zones and high-collision areas, but also wherever volunteers feel the program is needed. She said it is a non-enforcement program, so volunteers would not make any contact or communication with motorists, but rather simply record their speeds.
She said volunteers are usually accompanied by on-duty members so that the “three-strikes-your-out” principle is in effect, which gives motorists three chances to reduce their speed. If a driver fails to reduce his or her speed appropriately after passing a school zone sign and a Speed Watch board – which displays the speed of a passing vehicle – it would up to the discretion of the officers on site whether to administer a ticket.
Verbruggen said the program usually only requires only a couple of hours early in the morning or late in the afternoon on weekdays to monitor school zones, or a few hours on a weekend to monitor playground zones, but is designed to be flexible to accommodate volunteers.
COPS is probably the program that is in most desperate need of members, she said. The program involves one or two volunteers taking their vehicle and patrolling city streets to look for any suspicious activity.
“You’re not expected to get yourself involved physically at all, just to observe and report anything suspicious to the police,” said Verbruggen. “It’s just more sets of eyes out on the roads, helping to deter thieves and even catch them sometimes.”
She said having that presence out on the streets can be significant in discouraging theft, vandalism and other property crimes, and volunteers have also been very helpful in the past in locating stolen vehicles. She added volunteers support uniformed officers in other ways, such as the recent “Lock-Out Auto Crime” campaign that involved members distributing information pamphlets to vehicle owners with tips on how to prevent thefts from vehicles.
She said the cost of fuel for participating in the program is reimbursed by South Peace Traffic Services. The program is usually in effect during evenings and weekends, and there is one, hour-long meeting on the first Tuesday of every month that members are encouraged to attend.
Both the Speed Watch and COPS programs require volunteers to be 19 years of age or older, and to complete a criminal record check. Applications can be picked up and dropped off at the local detachment at 1230 102 Avenue, and more information can be obtained by calling Cst. Ambie Verbruggen at 250-784-3775.
Verbruggen said while the Rural Crime Watch program has more members than the other two programs, the detachment would certainly appreciate involvement from any interested citizens from rural communities in the Dawson Creek area.