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