Top cop outlines plans to expand
South OK RCMP hoping to add 1 officer per year through 2022
Penticton city council has tentatively agreed to bring on an additional officer at the Penticton RCMP detachment in 2018.
During budget talks Wednesday, Supt. Ted De Jager laid out a plan to add one officer every year through 2022, when the staffing complement would reach 50.
He noted Penticton’s ratio of 95 cases per officer far exceeds that of similarly sized communities, such as Campbell River (75) and Vernon (84).
Extra staffing is just one way to decrease the load, De Jager added.
“So if we have a lot of thefts in our community, how can we reduce calls for service for thefts in the first place? Locking doors, taking valuables out of a car, which is our leading crime type right now. So if we reduce that number we reduce the case burden per member,” he explained.
Police aren’t the solution to issues like mental health, he added, but they are part of the bigger picture. Working hand in hand with community organizations like Interior Health, the school district and addiction resource centres like Pathways is one way of finding those solutions. As well, a mental health officer is starting in January.
All told, De Jager is requesting a 2018 budget of $8.8 million, up from $8.5 million this year.
Meanwhile, the Penticton Fire Department is looking for an extra $148,000 next year specifically to help with wildfire mitigation efforts, part of which would be used to purchase an all-terrain vehicle to get a jump on small blazes on local trail networks.
“We can actually drive this vehicle on the city roads with permitting and get right into Campbell Mountain on the trail networks,” fire Chief Larry Watkinson told council.
“So we can get to a small, kind of hectare-sized fire, manage it for people with a rapid deployment, get to the fire and extinguish it before it grows big.”
A structural protection unit – a trailer outfitted with pumps, hoses and portable water tanks – is another big part of the wildfire budget.
“That would basically protect upwards of 50 homes in a community that has a significant wildfire coming in,” Watkinson said.
Sprinkler systems would keep homes in an evacuated community wet if the fire were to hit them. The province has these units, but they are in short supply, Watkinson said, especially in a wildfire season like this past summer affecting most of the province.
The full-time staff level of the department would remain unchanged at 35, according to the budget proposal presented by Watkinson, but he is looking to increase the number of volunteers from 31 to 40.
Watkinson’s proposed budget rings in at $5.3 million, up from $5.2 million this year.
Council tentatively agreed to both the RCMP and fire department proposals, with budget discussions set to wrap up today. Together, police and fire service consume about 42 cents of each tax dollar collected.