COP arrives in Smoky River region

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Criminals in the Falher-McLennan region better watch out!
Police have a new partner to help fight crime.
Smoky River Citizens on Patrol [COP] is raising its role to protect the community since it was officially incorporated in late August 2021.
Local COP president Alain Johnson says the organization serves as extended “eyes and ears” for police.
“Our goal is to reduce opportunities for activities and behaviours that hurt our community,” Johnson says.
“If we all take turns being out and about, we can help reduce the temptations and opportunity for those who struggle with their conscience to pursue criminal activity.”
Currently, the society has 12 quite active volunteers helping in various roles.
“COP groups help by bringing a new voice for the community in regards to policing,” Johnson says.
“We know the first responders are short- staffed and we hope some of our efforts can help alleviate some burdens and create a better link between the community and police.”
The mission of the COP program is to build safer communities by mobilizing citizens to participate in a community-based crime-prevention initiative with local police.
McLennan RCMP is the affiliate detachment for the COP program.
Sgt. Scott Ritchie welcomes the local COP program.
“I find it to be a very valuable program in regards to crime detection and prevention,” says Ritchie, who became the commanding officer on Oct. 1, 2021.
“It also enhances the RCMP’s relationship with the communities we serve.”
McLennan RCMP is a small group of officers who police a large geographical area with several communities, he notes.
“So we can’t be everywhere all the time and we rely on the public to let us know when something is happening,” Ritchie says.
“Having dedicated citizen groups like COP, where you have citizens actively participating with the police to protect their communities, is a great idea.
“It also helps build relationships between the public and police.”
Local municipal councils are not involved in the local COP program.
“But as we build, we are looking for support and suggestions from them to best serve our communities,” Johnson says.

The COP program is fairly simple, he says.
Citizens must pass a criminal record check and be at least 18 years of age to become a member.
Working in pairs to help ensure safety, members perform at least one patrol a month.
Volunteers don’t get directly involved in any police operation.
“We do not put ourselves in harm’s way,” Johnson says.
“Members are instructed to not intervene in any event or incident observed.”
When they see a crime or suspicious activity while on duty, volunteers contact appropriate first responders to assist in the situation.
“We do have direct communication with the RCMP,” Johnson says.
Any emergency is reported through the 911 dispatch system as 911 data helps determine funding for our rural police forces.”
Volunteers do not go onto private property, investigate or search, or hide anywhere.
A COP program in the region evolved after several citizens expressed concern in winter 2020-21 about some of the criminal activity in the region and the lack of support from the provincial government to fight crime.
For more information or to become a member or volunteer, email to smokyrivercop@gmail.com.

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