Investing $45,000 into Citizens on Patrol, or “COP” for short, and creating a dedicated task force, are just a few ways Trail is showing commitment to crime reduction strategies, says Coun. Sandy Santori.
Read more: Trail launches safety task force
“I think council’s position moving forward on this, with its contribution, is a strong indication of council’s seriousness around public safety and crime prevention,” Santori said.
“And to deal with issues that face our community as they relate to crime, be it real or perceived.”
At the Monday governance meeting, RCMP Sgt. Mike Wicentowich presented a plan to re-energize the COP program in Trail. He laid out a proposal to council and in it, was a request for money to hire a part-time COP coordinator.
The coordinator would act as a liaison between the RCMP and the city’s Protective Services appointee (Coun. Paul Butler) as well as play a vital role in the newly formed Community Safety Task Force. The three-year service contract will begin April 1.
“When considering the cost of this program as compared to the retention of additional RCMP members that was also reviewed by council, it is suggested that at this time this is a very effective use of financial resources,” Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff noted.
“Further, the community will be engaged as part of trying to address issues that are not only prevalent in Trail, but are being experienced in the vast majority of communities in B.C. and beyond.”
Besides agreeing to the $45,000 funding request, Santori says the municipality will continue to help the directive in other ways.
“In addition to that, the city will assist and participate in public awareness campaigns, for example, the call for volunteers,” he said. “And we’ll do what we can to develop a profile for our Citizens on Patrol.”
Santori also revealed that community at-large members of the task force have been chosen, though names won’t be released publicly until a later date.
The first safety task force meeting will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
“So I think this is great news in terms of a first step …,” said Santori, Trail’s task force appointee. “Which lends itself well, in terms of being part of the strategy moving forward, on how we deal with issues around crime and safety.”
Since 2010, the COP program has been functioning at various levels in Trail, but it is currently functioning inadequately, Sgt. Wicentowich reported to council.
“As of 2015, there was no funding provided to support a dedicated program coordinator, and there are no tangible processes, policies, or documentation in place to support the program,” he stated. “Volunteer materials and equipment required for patrols is inadequate.”
There are currently less than five COP volunteers in Trail.
Based on a 10-year study of crime statistics in the city, Wicentowich noted that “All Occurrences” actually decreased between 2012 and 2015.
However, over the past three years those numbers have incrementally increased, he said.
“The perpetrators of crime have become more brazen, there is a noticeable increase in homeless people, visible drug use, and mental health residents in Trail,” Wicentowich reported. “Local media, citizens and businesses are conveying that there is perceived/or otherwise, cause for concern around personal safety, and damage and theft of personal property.”
The primary activity for COP consists of volunteers carrying out active vehicle patrols to observe any suspicious or criminal activity, distracted drivers, drinking drivers, and/or speeding, within the community.
Volunteers are intended to act as additional “eyes and ears” for the community and the police. They must not intervene directly in any situations and must serve solely in and “observe and report” capacity.
Event and occurrences are recorded, and where appropriate, reported to the police.
These measures can take on a preventative or deterrent component when patrols are conducted in marked vehicles or by individuals marked as patrol volunteers.
There are currently several B.C. communities that have effective COP programs in place. It’s noted that successful COP programs have visible, positive interaction and support between, citizens, municipal government, and RCMP.
A dedicated COP Program Coordinator, well-established policies and procedures, effective volunteer screening processes, and volunteer training programs, are also in place.
Most successful COP programs have at least 11-to-60 volunteers, depending on demographics.