RCMP works to build community relationships

The police force has held 87 town hall meetings and launched a new community familiarization program in Sask.

KIPLING, Sask. — Saskatchewan RCMP and the communities they serve are building new relationships, says assistant commissioner Curtis Zablocki.

Speaking at the Division 1 meeting of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities earlier this month, he said 87 town hall meetings and a new community familiarization program show how detachments are reaching out.

He said safer communities start with strong partnerships.

“We need to build the trust and confidence with our communities across the province,” he said.

The town hall meetings held in each detachment area over the past few months will be repeated beginning this fall.

Zablocki said the community familiarization program is designed to better engage both RCMP members and community members.

For example, members might be posted to a farming area but without any knowledge of the industry. Similarly, they might not know about First Nations culture and ceremonies.

“I think that any of our members … need to know as much as they can about the people they are providing service to,” Zablocki said.

Communities will provide feedback on what they want to see RCMP officers engaged in within a particular area, he said. Detachment commanders will be meeting with community leaders to get that information.

During a discussion with RM leaders and administrative staff, Zablocki said RM councillors could stop at detachments, too.

He said some detachment areas have 15 to 17 RMs within their boundaries and can’t always get to meetings with councils.

He also said he would like rural residences to have legal land descriptions posted at their roads or lanes so they can be more easily found.

Zablocki said property crime in the province continues to decline, as it has since the fall of 2016. On the other hand, crimes against persons, such as assaults, have been steadily increasing since 2013.

“But I can tell you the first three months of 2018, our persons crimes have started to trend downwards as well,” he said.

He encouraged crime victims to report the incidents. Otherwise the statistics are incorrect and the RCMP can’t deploy the proper resources.

“We can’t solve a crime if we don’t know about it,” he said.

Property crime offenders typically don’t just commit one offence, he said. For example, an arrest a year ago after a break-in at a golf course in Moosomin found the person connected to more than 200 property crime offences across Western Canada.

Zablocki agreed there are challenges with RCMP visibility and response times in rural Saskatchewan.

That’s where the new Protection and Response Team announced by the province last fall and implemented April 1 will help. Under that program, conservation officers and commercial highway traffic officers could be first on the scene of an incident.

And, a pilot Crime Reduction Team program will become permanent in North Battleford and Prince Albert this fall. The pilot team remains in place until the two permanent teams are in place.

“This team focuses on serial or prolific offenders,” Zablocki explained. “We’re hearing from folks that they’re beginning to feel safe in their communities again.”

The province provided $1.6 million to fund the teams. It will be used for 14 full-time members, including 10 officers and four support staff.

Under the pilot program, the team executed 193 arrest warrants on 384 Criminal Code charges. Charges against 26 known gang members and affiliates are among them.

He added the RCMP continues to work with partners on addressing the root causes of crime such as mental illness, addiction and homelessness.

“Rural crime is not specifically a First Nations issue, not specific to any demographic across the province,” he said.

He also said the RCMP is waiting to see what comes from the passing of a private member’s motion in the House of Commons last month, which asked for a committee to examine rural crime across Canada.

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