A Trail resident is asking the city to revive the Citizens on Patrol program so the community can help deal with escalating crime like petty thefts. (Photo by Mette Køstner on Unsplash)

Trail crime victim asks city to revive citizen patrols

With new RCMP leadership coming in August, the city is hoping to ramp up COPS and other programs

Enough is enough with petty crime – and worse – in Trail neighbourhoods.

That’s why Bonny Leighton spoke to Trail council Monday night.

After having her home broken into and robbed of more than $5,000 worth of belongings, Leighton installed video surveillance cameras outside her residence earlier this summer.

Then a thief came back and stole the video cameras right off her home.

She asked Trail officials to install more cameras, specifically on the bridges, because Leighton surmises the shore-to-shore connectors are an effective get-a-way for a certain band of thieves.

Moreover, the downtown Trail resident is imploring the city to revive community policing, otherwise known as neighbourhood crime watch or Citizens on Patrol.

“(They are) stealing off back porches, lawn furniture and many other things,” Leighton said. “It’s blatant, more than just petty crime, and done in the daylight too.And it doesn’t just affect residents of the downtown area, it also affects shop owners.”

Leighton’s request was timely as city policing is currently undergoing a transition with Sgt. Mike Wicentowich taking over the leadership role of NCO (non-commissioned officer) at the end of August.

“I recently met with the new staff sergeant (Sgt. Wicentowich),” explained Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff. “He’s interested as well, and will be looking to re-establish the program and get it back to where it was previously.”

He advised that COPS (Citizens on Patrol) is still active and several volunteers do go out on patrol.

“Unfortunately there hasn’t been the necessary coordination and direction provided by the RCMP,” Perehudoff said. “The city is hopeful this will improve as the new Sergeant assumes the role and reviews programs such as this.”

Perehudoff could not provide a timeline but ensured Leighton that various crime prevention programs will remain on the city’s radar.

“Depending on where (Sgt. Wicentowich) is with this review, he will make contact with people who express interest in getting involved with this or other programs such as the RCMP auxiliary program. In the future, we may also put out a call for volunteers … as this is obviously a valuable tool with respect to getting people engaged and reducing overall crime in the city.”

By working in pairs and monitoring high-activity areas, Citizens on Patrol are essentially “eyes and ears for the police.”

“COPS is already running, it is a matter of reviewing the existing program with a view to make improvements,” Perehudoff said. “If the community is interested in getting involved as part of developing a more robust program, we would encourage anyone who is interested to contact the city or the RCMP. The more eyes we can get on the street in support of the RCMP and the difficult job they have the better and ideally this will be properly coordinated and managed to get the highest return.”

Leighton was accompanied in council by a friend who volunteered for a number of years in Fruitvale.

“I believe we did make a difference,” she said. “We were the eyes on the street and that’s what I would like to see happen again … to get that sense of community and back to a better time when people looked out for each other.”

As far as paying for the RCMP service, the City of Trail has entered into a policing agreement with the provincial and federal governments.

The agreement specifies the municipality’s obligation to pay 70 per cent for RCMP members – or $2 million annually – and to also provide municipal support staff and accommodation at the Trail and Greater District Detachment, which is owned and operated by the City of Trail.

“The city pays directly to the RCMP (Receiver General) for this service based on 14 members that Council has approved,” Perehudoff explained.

To further meet community policing needs, Trail also pays $200,000+ annually for two crime prevention officers.

“The Crime Prevention Unit (CRU) focuses on more serious crime and prolific offenders,” Perehudoff clarified. “The city pays for two members who work as part of a CRU team that involves integration with other CRU units and GIS (plain clothes detectives) members.”

The city’s current cost per RCMP officer, at 70 per cent, is $122,400 per member. Perehudoff noted the two member CRU costs the city an additional $244,800 annually, which will increase as RCMP costs continue to escalate.

“Council has made a concerted effort through the budget to provide additional resources, the sergeant is currently reviewing resources available and will assess whether or not new resources are required,” Perehudoff said.

“There’s also a new inspector in Nelson, so they are working collectively to develop a plan and there are a number of ways crime and crime prevention can be addressed. The ongoing review and assessment forms part of a bigger plan and hopefully, he’ll be able to implement that with the city’s cooperation.”

The RCMP is expected to come forward with their future recommendations, which Perehudoff speculated will likely happen after the Oct. 20 local government election.

“To demonstrate the need and funding requirements as we get into our 2019 budget deliberations,” he concluded “Sgt. Wicentowich may be seeking additional funding depending on the nature of the programs and associated RCMP staffing levels that are required.”

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