RCMP’s town hall meet­ing in Swift Cur­rent a ben­e­fit

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG — mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

The Swift Cur­rent RCMP held a town hall meet­ing in the city on Nov. 8 to dis­cuss com­mu­nity polic­ing and to lis­ten to con­cerns from res­i­dents.

The meet­ing at the Elm­wood Golf and Coun­try Club was at­tended by around 20 peo­ple. The City RCMP also held a town hall meet­ing ear­lier this year in April.

“We had pretty much an equal num­ber of folks come out tonight than we did back in April, maybe a few less,” Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges said after the meet­ing. “I felt the con­ver­sa­tion and then di­a­logue with the folks was great. I ap­pre­ci­ate the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity tak­ing the time to ex­press their con­cerns and have dis­cus­sion about the polic­ing ser­vice they have within the com­mu­nity.”

He was not too con­cerned about the at­ten­dance at the meet­ing, be­cause the RCMP is happy to en­gage with any­one who wants to talk about polic­ing in the com­mu­nity.

“Cer­tain peo­ple come out to these meet­ings that have an in­ter­est within the com­mu­nity,” he said. “Oth­ers don’t, strictly be­cause there’s other things go­ing on at the same time. ... The peo­ple that were here ob­vi­ously raised some good points and cre­ated some great dis­cus­sion, and we know we’re not al­ways go­ing to get lots of peo­ple, but if we can even en­gage one or two peo­ple it’s a good use of our time.”

A de­ci­sion on the fre­quency of fu­ture town hall meet­ings in the city will be taken after some eval­u­a­tion of this year's out­come.

“We’ll go back and eval­u­ate it and get a lit­tle bit more feed­back from those that maybe weren’t here within the com­mu­nity,” he said. “We’ll kind of ask around and we’ll re­assess it next spring and see where we’re at.”

He noted that the RCMP al­ways wel­come dis­cus­sion with the com­mu­nity and they want to hear any con­cerns from res­i­dents.

“We’re not here to dic­tate what goes on in the com­mu­nity,” he said. “Our doors are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for peo­ple to come for­ward and specif­i­cally my­self, Mon­day to Fri­day, if any­one ever has any con­cerns my door is al­ways open. We en­cour­age peo­ple to come in with any con­cerns that they have within the com­mu­nity that are re­lated to the polic­ing ser­vice. They’re the ones pay­ing for it. So if they have any ideas or sug­ges­tions we al­ways wel­come them.”

The Swift Cur­rent RCMP has three polic­ing pri­or­i­ties for 2018. The first one is to pre­vent and re­duce the threat and im­pact of se­ri­ous and or­ga­nized crime re­lated to drug traf­fick­ing. The sec­ond pri­or­ity is to en­hance road safety through the de­tec­tion of driv­ers im­paired by drugs and al­co­hol, and the third pri­or­ity is to pre­vent and re­duce the oc­cur­rence of crime in­volv­ing youth.

These an­nual pri­or­i­ties are es­tab­lished after con­sul­ta­tion with City coun­cil. Staff Sgt. Hodges will also talk to the of­fi­cers at the City de­tach­ment, be­cause they are out on the street, where they see what is go­ing on and talk­ing to peo­ple.

In es­tab­lish­ing these pri­or­i­ties the goal of the City RCMP is to work to­wards harm re­duc­tion and safer com­mu­ni­ties.

“So what­ever we can do to make the com­mu­nity safer and homes within the com­mu­nity safer, that’s what we will do and part and par­cel of that is tar­get­ing drugs and drug traf­fick­ing within the com­mu­nity,” he said. “It cre­ates and ex­ten­sive amount of harm, not only phys­i­cal harm to in­di­vid­u­als, but the off­shoots that it causes for resid­ual ef­fects to the other peo­ple that are around those peo­ple.”

He em­pha­sized the RCMP's pri­or­ity fo­cus on crime re­lated to drug traf­fick­ing is more wide rang­ing than just look­ing for those traf­fick­ing drugs or peo­ple in pos­ses­sion of drugs.

“It’s like the trunk of the tree and you look at the branches that go out and the im­pacts that drugs can have within your com­mu­nity on other things such as thefts,” he said. “Peo­ple will steal to sup­port their drug habits. Peo­ple will de­velop credit cards that are fraud­u­lent in or­der to ob­tain money to sup­port their drug habit. It all comes back to their drugs. They’ll steal prop­erty from peo­ple’s res­i­dence to sup­port that drug habit. Then you have the so­ci­etal im­pacts where they’ll take their so­cial in­come sup­port cheque and they’ll use that to pur­chase drugs, and their kids and other peo­ple within the fam­ily in the home go hun­gry, or don’t have a roof over their head.”

The RCMP con­sid­ers drugs to be a root cause of a lot of other crime in the com­mu­nity and if they can there­fore ad­dress this is­sue there will be an im­pact on min­i­miz­ing other crimes in the com­mu­nity.

There were drugs in the com­mu­nity be­fore and at the same time the po­lice is fo­cus­ing more on this is­sue, but he be­lieves there has also been a change in the type of drugs avail­able in the city.

“I think we’ve seen an in­crease in some of the harder drugs, some of the opi­ates, within the com­mu­nity, and that’s just a re­flec­tion of so­ci­ety,” he said. “All around we’re see­ing that in­flux of the opi­ates and the harder drugs and when you see that, you see more of the ef­fects of drugs as op­posed to some­one who is maybe smok­ing mar­i­juana or cannabis, so the lighter drugs. It has a much more harder im­pact on so­ci­ety.”

It is a pri­or­ity for the City RCMP to fo­cus on drug re­lated crime, but city res­i­dents might feel other mat­ters need the at­ten­tion of the po­lice.

“It is a bit of a bal­ance, but I think part of that is we need to do a bet­ter job of ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple to a cer­tain ex­tent on the is­sues around drugs and the im­pacts it has within the com­mu­nity,” he said. “That’s not solely just the po­lice that need to do that. That needs to be done in part­ner­ship with all the other dif­fer­ent agen­cies within the com­mu­nity.”

Staff Sgt. Hodges spoke about var­i­ous mat­ters dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion at the town hall meet­ing. He pro­vided some de­tails about the num­ber of of­fi­cers at the de­tach­ment and the sup­port ser­vices avail­able to them. There are cur­rently 19 of­fi­cers, con­sist­ing of a staff sergeant, a sergeant, two cor­po­rals, and 15 con­sta­bles.

The RCMP has an agree­ment with the City of Swift Cur­rent to pro­vid­ing polic­ing ser­vices in the com­mu­nity. The City pays for 90 per cent of polic­ing costs and the fed­eral govern­ment con­trib­utes the re­main­ing 10 per cent. In ru­ral ar­eas of the prov­ince the cost struc­ture for polic­ing ser­vices is dif­fer­ent, with 70 per cent paid by the prov­ince and 30 per cent by the fed­eral govern­ment. Com­mu­ni­ties with a pop­u­la­tion of more than 15,000 are re­quired to pay 90 per cent of the polic­ing cost pro­vided by the RCMP.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion he said the de­tach­ment can al­ways use more of­fi­cers. He has made a pre­sen­ta­tion to City coun­cil and they are con­sid­er­ing his re­quest for a cou­ple of ad­di­tional of­fi­cers. If that re­quest is suc­cess­ful, at least one of the ad­di­tional of­fi­cers will be used on a reg­u­lar ba­sis for drug en­force­ment.

He pro­vided some sta­tis­tics about the num­ber of files that of­fi­cers have dealt with. From April 2017 to March 2018 there were 7,663 files that dealt with a wide va­ri­ety of mat­ters, rang­ing from driv­ing of­fences to fraud and firearm of­fences, sex­ual as­saults, as­saults, drugs, ve­hi­cle thefts, break and en­ters, deaths, miss­ing per­sons, emo­tion­ally dis­turbed per­sons and alarms.

He re­ferred to the Cannabis Act and em­pha­sized that the act still spec­i­fies var­i­ous cir­cum­stances that can re­sult in fines for the il­le­gal use of cannabis. Any­one un­der the age of 19 will be fined $300 for us­ing cannabis and there is also a fine of $300 for pos­sess­ing or con­sum­ing cannabis in a ve­hi­cle. It is il­le­gal to con­sume cannabis in a pub­lic place, which will re­sult in a $200 fine and there is a fine of $1,000 for con­sum­ing cannabis in a school or on school grounds.

He high­lighted the im­por­tant work done by the RCMP school li­ai­son of­fi­cer, who is work­ing full-time out of the Swift Cur­rent Com­pre­hen­sive High School. This of­fi­cer fo­cuses on polic­ing in and around the school and he is an im­por­tant re­source to school staff. The ben­e­fit of this full-time po­si­tion is that there is con­ti­nu­ity and the of­fi­cer can de­velop a re­la­tion­ship of trust with stu­dents.

This of­fi­cer will be in­volved in vi­o­lent threat risk as­sess­ments that will be done by the RCMP and other agen­cies to keep stu­dents and staff safe. Twelve dif­fer­ent threats have been as­sessed in city schools since Jan­uary.

Staff Sgt. Hodges con­cluded his pre­sen­ta­tion with a ref­er­ence to crime pre­ven­tion. He em­pha­sized the need for city res­i­dents to take steps to avoid crimes of op­por­tu­nity. They need to take the keys out of their ve­hi­cle, lock their ve­hi­cle and keep valu­ables out of sight, and they should also take steps to re­duce such op­por­tu­ni­ties for crime around their homes, in­clud­ing talk­ing to your neigh­bours. He noted that no part of the city is im­mune to these kinds of op­por­tunis­tic crimes. Peo­ple can avoid fraud at­tempts by re­mem­ber­ing that if some­thing sounds too good to be true, it prob­a­bly is. He urged peo­ple to as­sist the po­lice by call­ing them if they ob­serve

Photo by Matthew Lieben­bergt

Sgt. Kelly Guider re­sponds to a ques­tion dur­ing the Swift Cur­rent RCMP's town hall meet­ing, Nov. 8. Stand­ing at the back is Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges.

Photo ny Matthew Lieben­berg

Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges speaks dur­ing the Swift Cur­rent RCMP's town hall meet­ing, Nov. 8.

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