Town hall meetings designed to promote involvement

DENHOLM, Sask. — Keeping the public informed of police initiatives is a key way to reduce rural crime, said RCMP.

“We want to get out there and share with the public the resources that we have and what they can do to help us in a rural environment in terms of being our eyes and ears because we just can’t be at all places at all times,” said staff sergeant Greg Abbott of Saskatoon RCMP district management.

“That’s why we need the public out there.”

The four-month old town hall meetings are part of a province-wide initiative the RCMP is carrying out to build relationships and encourage community involvement.

Abbott was one of three RCMP members who spoke in Denholm, June 5, which drew an audience of about 40 (mostly elderly) people from the community and surrounding area. Other scheduled forums were held in Battleford and Meota last week.

“These meetings are happening because we really want people to have that ability to talk to the police, which is sometimes difficult. We’re coming out and saying here we are,” said Inspector John Sutherland for the Battlefords RCMP.

“Otherwise those folks would be sitting at home uncertain, stewing and perhaps getting more angry about the whole thing.”

Sutherland said he chose the three communities to strategically involve the largest public audience possible for the Battlefords’ detachment, which is one of the largest in the province with 56 fulltime members.

“We need to build that sense of community and I think a lot of that has been lost,” he said.

However, he said as farms get bigger and the distance between neighbours widens, it is more important than ever to leverage a sense of rural community.

Effective use of video is a major factor now available to combat crime.

“Building that sense of community back by building a video community where they’re sharing. If somebody rings your doorbell, you can share with your neighbours and your friends if you’re not home,” he said.

Sutherland is referring to ring technology that connects neighbours to one another when someone enters their property.

Other examples include the use of Facebook and building cellphone texting trees, which fan emergency contact information to individuals and organizations.

Another initiative includes the recently created crime reduction team, which targets hot spots in the province that require more police presence and more initiative in terms of solving crime and controlling habitual criminals.

“They (public) also need to understand the long-term solutions in terms of helping those with addictions and lifestyles, mental health and those types of things that we need to start dealing with,” he added.

Citizens on patrol, crime watch and crime stoppers are ways communities can take ownership in terms of proactive crime reduction.

Another key area police are attempting to curtail crime is through their outreach with young people in elementary and high school.

“One of the many issues, in terms of the root causes of youth involvement in crime, I would have to say parenting is still extremely, extremely important. I’m not saying it’s not as good as it used to be, but I’m saying that there’s a lot of environments the kids find themselves in that they don’t get the support they need.”

Abbott said the town hall meetings have been well attended throughout the province and are working.

“I’ve seen the transition over the last four months in terms of people becoming more and more aware of what we’re doing out there.”

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