‘If you see something suspicious….’

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

RCMP and municipal officials continue to push against the notion that some things aren’t worth the effort of a phone call to the police.

Report them, said Slave Lake mayor Tyler Warman at the Nov. 16 ‘town hall’ discussion on local policing issues.

Please give us a call, echoed acting detachment commander Sgt. Casey Bruyns.
This same message is repeated, pretty much every time municipal councils and the RCMP get together.

From the RCMP perspective, the more information the better. Knowing where and when crimes happen, for example, can help them target their efforts, for one thing.

From the municipal perspective, other factors are at play besides solving or preventing particular crimes. The more stuff that gets reported, said Warman, the better our case when we lobby the province for more police resources. If the stats don’t show the true picture, it weakens our case.

“It actually hurts us when you don’t report that stuff,” Warman said.

More resources?
When it comes to more resources, there are two possibilities. One is the return of an RCMP traffic unit to Slave Lake. There was one based there, but it was relocated to Westlock after the 2011 wildfire year. The other thing local municipalities would like the province to consider is putting one of the special, rural crime-reduction units in Slave Lake. The nearest ones are based in St. Paul and Grande Prairie.

Bruyns subsequently told The Leader members of those two units “love to travel around to different communities, including Slave Lake.”

New barracks
What the chances are of getting either of the above two enhanced RCMP services in Slave Lake is anybody’s guess, but there’s another factor, which Warman raised at the meeting.

There is a plan – though not yet a very solid one – to build a new RCMP detachment building on the same property as the fire hall. It’s long been suggested that the building on 6th Ave. SE is too small and getting too old. It’s been put off for years – for one thing because the town has no real idea how it would pay for it – but it will have to happen eventually. So with plenty of space, a new facility could easily house that regional RCMP traffic unit. RCMP’s K Division will be in town next month, Warman said, so the matter will be raised, and “hopefully we can make it work.”

SCAN
Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) is a program that can result in people being evicted, and buildings (usually houses) being boarded up and fenced off for 90 days. It’s not an RCMP program, and the police can’t initiate a proceeding against a property. That has to come from the public.

Commenting on the program, Warman noted that one such ‘drug house’ had recently been shut down in the community, making a neighbourhood safer. But the tips, or complaints, must come from the public. So how do people do that?

Call 1-860-960-7226, said Bruyns.

“Eyes and ears make a big difference,” Warman added.

Cost of policing
This matter was also raised by the mayor, after a question he said he’d gotten on it from a member of the public. Slave Lake’s share of the cost of the RCMP in town is just under $2 million, which he said is “basically 10 per cent of our operations budget.”

Moving from there to the idea of a provincial police force replacing the RCMP (an idea the province is promoting), Warman said he thinks “a lot of it is politics.” But the bottom line for municipalities consists of two questions: would service be better, and would costs be the same or less? If the answer is ‘no,’ then what would be the point?

“Our council is pretty damn happy with the work of the RCMP,” Warman said.

Shelter patrols
Question (from a member of the public): Will the RCMP be doing more patrols in the area of the new homeless shelter?

“We do industrial patrols every night,” said Bruyns. The shelter, being on the edge of the industrial area in the northeast part of town, will become part of those regular patrols.

Warman: “There’s a lot of eyes and ears on that site right now, from a variety of viewpoints.”

Warman went on to speak about the need to distinguish between the people who commit most crimes in the industrial areas and the clients of the Mat Program shelter. By and large, he said, they are not the same group, although he admitted there could be some overlap.

Plain clothes
Warman asked Bruyns to talk about the Slave Lake RCMP’s GIS (General Investigation Section), which Bruyns also calls the ‘plain-clothes’ unit. He said it is fully-staffed and engaged in a number of activities. These include some of the more complex and “long-range” drug investigations. They are out there, but you don’t know they are police because they aren’t in uniform. Surveillance is one of their activities, Bruyns said.

“Keeping an eye on certain residents.”

Industrial activity
Bruyns’ final message for the evening was back on the them of industrial thefts. Quite a few of these involve a vehicle, he said. If you see somebody driving around acting suspiciously, “please call us!”

Bruyns gave as an example a scenario of somebody seeing somebody else skulking around in a hoodie at three in the morning when he or she is filling up at a cardlock. Call 911, or 849-3999. Let us know about it.

The homeless shelter in Slave Lake.

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