Anthony Zimmerman is about as even-keeled as they come.
But lately, the city’s first Citizen on Patrol volunteer has become quite incensed reading about local crime in the pages of the Trail Times – those stories cover everything from petty theft and vandalism to break-and-enters and armed robbery.
So when he picked up the edition last Thursday, and read about Mayor Lisa Pasin starting a new task force to address crime, the Trail senior knew it was time to speak up about getting Citizen on Patrol teams back into action.
Story here: Trail crime victim talks to council
Story here: Trail mayor announces crime task force
At 86, he’s already served 20 years on crime watch. And, as an honorary lifetime member of Trail Citizen on Patrol, Anthony has no plans to stop.
“I love Trail and I’ll do everything it takes to curb this bad time of crime,” he began. “For me it’s a passion, and I’ll continue to do everything it takes as a Citizen on Patrol, to get this thing (task force) off the ground. I am not going to give up and I’ll help until I can’t help anymore.”
The hallway of the family home is adorned with a dozen commendations in recognition of crime watch service for both Anthony and Joyce Zimmerman, his wife of 63 years and patrol partner for five years.
“I was the very first person to sign up when we started Citizen on Patrol back in 1998, ” he said. “It was necessary. The police needed help, and we were the eyes and ears for them. And we were very successful, we helped curb crime and put a lot of people in jail.”
One carefully framed certificate is dated 2001, and was signed by then-Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chrétien. Others are signed by past MPs and former British Columbia premiers and MLAs.
The commendation Anthony is most proud of, however, is his and Joyce’s Honorary Life Membership to Trail Citizens on Patrol. Signed by George Braithwaite, the RCMP officer who started the Trail program 20 years ago, and former Trail RCMP Sgt. Nick Romanchuk, the certificate states, “Your support and dedication to the Trail Citizens on Patrol since its inception in 1998 is truly appreciated. Your efforts have helped make our community a safer place to live.”
“I wanted to show this because it might help the task force and our new council try to rekindle Citizens on Patrol,” Anthony said. “Back then, the police cared, the province cared, even Chrétien took out time to express appreciation for Citizens on Patrol. They let us know they appreciated our service and it made us feel that much stronger,” he shared.
“It’s upsetting that the government no longer makes incentives to keep these types of programs going.”
Almost every Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to about 4 a.m., Anthony and his partner Hank (later on it was Joyce) would get into his truck, lock the doors, and start their patrol in town.
They helped get impaired drivers off the road, busted bootleggers outside convenience stores, and helped catch vandals and thieves.
“That was one of my passions, getting drunk drivers off the road,” said Anthony. “That, and sales of booze to the kids. The police knew that was going on, but could never catch the guys. We did, the officer was very thankful, and I am very proud of that.”
One time when the Zimmermans were on duty, they helped keep two small children safe.
“We saw this little boy and girl running between the Arlington and Crown Point,” he recalled. “It was already 10 o’clock at night, so when they came up the street to Cedar Avenue, I introduced myself and and asked why they were running back and forth.”
Anthony remembers the children crying, and saying their father went into one of the establishments hours earlier and never returned.
The Zimmermans called the police who subsequently picked the two up, ages eight and nine as Anthony recalled. The RCMP later entrusted care of the boy and girl to a family member.
“He was charged with child abandonment,” Anthony said, referring to the father. “The grandmother took over the kids’ care. So things like that made me want to go out that much more.”
When Joyce became terminally ill a few years ago, he temporarily hung up his patrol jacket. But Anthony still keeps a close watch on his neighbourhood. Just last year he played a hand in catching two youths throwing rocks at cars crossing the bridge.
“We have to get this crime rate under control,” he said. “It’s just terrible.”
While it’s too early to outline the role of the Community Safety Task Force, Mayor Pasin was clear that community involvement would be key.
“This is an issue that council and the RCMP can’t take on, on their own,” Pasin told the Times last week. “We need to be looking at additional ways that council can support the RCMP and support our community … and there has to be citizen engagement … I think it’s really important for us to stay ahead of the curve on this and engage really early on to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our community safe.”
Those words are what prompted the city’s lifetime Citizen on Patrol volunteer to make a call to the Trail Times.
“Those things upstairs speak for themselves,” Anthony said, referring to the wall of commendations. “My advice to them is to get a Crime Prevention Officer on board and get this show on the road. It’s long overdue.”