People from Chemainus and Crofton are continually expressing concerns about police protection and presence, but it’s not concerning enough to attend a public meeting.
Only 32 citizens, including North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring and Coun. Rosalie Sawrie, were at the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP’s Annual Performance Planning session for 2020-21 – also a chance to voice concerns – at the Chemainus Legion Hall last Wednesday night despite the presence of all the detachment’s top brass. Insp. Chris Bear, Staff Sgt. Chris Swain and other officers responsible for different units were there to answer questions and provide valuable information.
“I’ve assembled my best people to be here,” said Bear in his introductory comments.
“We do this every year where we go out in the community and we want to find out what’s going on in the community. It’s just to get your views as the people living in the community of what’s important to you.”
Bear mentioned at the meeting there is a new brochure available at the detachment in Duncan called ‘Who To Call?’ This answers many questions about how to report criminal activity or bring matters to the attention of the RCMP.
Since there were few people there to hear that firsthand, Gabor Horvath of Crofton delivered some hard copies to the Chemainus Visitor Centre. He also scanned and shared it on social media, such as the Chemainus Shoutouts Facebook page.
Social media, it was stressed, is not the way to report crimes. Those incidents do not generate any action because Bear emphasized the police do not monitor social media.
“The more reports you have of problems, the more resources you can put on it,” he said.
“My message at every public consultation is to call the police,” added Swain. “It may seem trivial to you. We still want to hear about it.
“It helps us decide on patrols, where our priorities should be. Calling us and reporting to us is huge and we really encourage that.”
Bear outlined the main categories from the police priorities last year and the list was expected to remain much the same. They include: Police/Community Relations; Prevent and Reduce Crimes Against Persons; Reduce Substance Abuse; Enhance Road Safety; Indigenous Policing; and Reduce Property Crime.
Chemainus patrols was one of the sub-categories within Police/Community Relations.
“We wanted to make sure our presence was felt and reported back to North Cowichan that we were out here,” noted Bear.
The Reduce Property Crime section, “that’s a big one,” he conceded.
“We have a few offenders that commit most of the crime out there.”
That’s where such things as restorative justice, priority offender enforcement, curfew checks and prolific offender management are significant.
There were some poignant questions raised by the public at the session.
Kathy and Ward Yeager, who had one of their businesses recently struck with damage to a baby bear statue and countless other thefts, brought up the matter of closed circuit television to monitor areas for offenders.
Most thefts occur in the early-morning hours, Ward pointed out, and officers watching CCTV in real time would have video evidence. The Yeagers’ own surveillance played a key role in catching the person responsible for the baby bear statue theft.
“For me, it’s reached a choice of closing my business or finding a solution that’s going to be longer term,” stressed Ward of the constant thefts.
He reasoned an officer in an office with a bank of televisions could pick up a phone and call an officer on patrol to check out suspicious incidents.
“We can get business owners to provide the tools,” said Ward. “I need you to provide the officers to watch it in real time.”
“We can’t be everywhere all the time,” countered Bear.
He also questioned whether it would ever be wise for officers to be paid to watch video, and the video equipment would need to be maintained.
“It’s got to be a certain quality, a certain standard, a certain resolution.”
But with in-house systems, Bear said people can set up what they want and it does help the police with investigations. “It’s like taking a photograph of anybody,” he noted.
The Yeagers were concerned about missing criminals by mere minutes from monitoring their own systems and then “what would I do if I catch him?” pondered Ward.
There was also some discussion about the successes and shortcomings of the Block Watch program. One resident said it’s been a huge success on her street while another cited the indifference of many and that “people have to want to belong and be aware of their surroundings.”
Some specific successes around Chemainus pertaining to crime were cited, such as the drug houses on Chemainus and Cottonwood Roads being curtailed in conjunction with North Cowichan bylaw enforcement.
The evening concluded with people being divided into discussion groups with officers.
A similar meeting was held the following night at the Cowichan Community Centre in Duncan for the police to further formulate their plans.