On Monday, December 2 the District of Vanderhoof heard from Sgt. Jason Keays and Cpl. Justin Thiessen about a new idea that would, in effect, add another member to the Vanderhoof RCMP Detachment.
The two RCMP members presented to Vanderhoof council a plan which would add a position to the district called the Safer Communities Coordinator.
This position would have access to the detachment but would be more of a member of the community. They would know the community and be able to coordinate the efforts of the Vanderhoof Crime Watch, the Rural Crime Watch and Citizens on Patrol, among others, all from an RCMP policing perspective.
Sgt. Keays said at council that if Vanderhoof won’t be receiving more officers to deal with the high call volume then this would be a proactive measure. Keays said he believes the position would be as good as adding one policeman and would free the RCMP to do the core policing work.
Councillor Steve Little and other members of council voiced concerns regarding how the position would be paid for and whether this would mean that Vanderhoof would no longer be on the list of communities that have a greater need for more officers.
“It still comes down to, we’re short on police, that’s more of a priority,” said Little. “I understand the coordinator position but I still figure we’re short three or four police officers, how do we get them?”
“It’s no secret that Vanderhoof needs more members,” said Keays in council. “I know that we have to keep working on that but this is something that we can do in the meantime.”
Cpl. Thiessen’s recommendations are that this program should be on a two year contractual basis and the position would be paid for by the District of Vanderhoof.
Cpl. Thiessen said that he spent five years in William’s Lake while it was going through a transitional period. He said that he got there in the days when it was very busy and he saw the elements that worked successfully there.
Thiessen brought up the unfortunate fact of a low officer retention rate in Vanderhoof, most likely caused by the higher call volumes and file loads found here.
“We’re facing a retention of members problem,” said Cpl. Thiessen in council. “I heard Mayor Thiessen say that once there were policemen who would be in this community for 10 to 12 years. We’re not retaining the members in that fashion. If they had that local person, then at least there’s still some consistency in the program and any incoming detachment commander would have that local contact.”
The Vanderhoof detachment was audited last week in order to determine if more members were truly needed and how many it would take to cover the immense call load that Vanderhoof RCMP officers have to deal with.
The audit was something that Mayor Thiessen said they had been asking for in Vanderhoof for about four or five years.
“We want to see what that audit says and hear back from Superintendent Rod Booth,” said Thiessen. “We thought we would have some opportunity to be involved but my hope is that the numbers will come out soon and the superintendent will act accordingly to make sure we’re covered to the same degree as other communities.”
Mayor Thiessen wanted to stress that Vanderhoof isn’t just looking for more RCMP, like many other communities, but enough RCMP to accommodate the population and case load.
The Safer Communities program will now be discussed by the district council and its future will determined during budget discussions.