Between 15 and 18 volunteers have signed up to be part of Citizens on Patrol (COP), a crime-deterring initiative started by business owner Tracy Hill.
Hill, who got the idea for the endeavour following the murder of Const. Christopher Worden in 2007, said there is a need to give back to the community.
“Our goal is to provide a safer environment for the residents of Hay River,” she said. “We want to form a relationship with the RCMP and provide extra support because they can’t be everywhere at once.”
The group is still in the process of cutting through enormous amounts of red tape and logistics required to get the project off the ground. Vehicles, insurance, adequate training and financial commitments are some of the details that still need to be ironed out.
Sgt. Chad Orr of the RCMP commended the group, saying it will become an integral part of the community.
“These groups are the most effective eyes and ears we can possibly have,” he said. “It’s crucial to get people to help us make the community safer.”
Coun. Kevin Wallington became involved because of his desire to see more relationships created between Hay River residents.
Wallington said it’s a good opportunity for the town to work with the Drug Free Zone committee to ensure various areas of town are covered.
“The more we get out there, the more aware we are of what’s going on,” he said.
The group can also model itself on other COP groups established across the country.
“Once we have taken a look at different groups and know what to expect in terms of equipment and hours, we can decide which ideas to adopt,” Wallington said.
The volunteers will not have the jurisdiction to make arrests, but will rather assist the RCMP by roaming less-patrolled areas of town and taking notes on any unlawful behaviour.
Orr said they would likely co-ordinate their efforts during monthly meetings with a liaison officer, who can tell volunteers about crime trends and which parts of town need more patrolling.
“The Citizens on Patrol are their own entity – they will have their own rules, policies and bylaws – and we will support them as much as we can,” he said.
Elise Marie is one such volunteer who answered the call for help put on Facebook by Hill.
Marie believes a stronger presence can lead to fewer instances of violence.
“Some of the violent deaths in the past few years could have been avoided if there had been people around to call for help,” she said. “Sometimes just being aware and making the phone call can make all the difference.”
by Myles Dolphin