The Port Alberni RCMP have launched an extension to the volunteer program Business Watch performed by the Citizens On Patrol (C.O.P.S.) volunteers. They’ve added high-visibility day patrols during business hours, seven days a week.
“The RCMP have heard from the community over the past few months their concerns about rising crime rates. While there is no simple solution, this is one way the RCMP and community can jointly address some of these issues immediately,” RCMP Community Policing Officer Cpl. Amelia Hayden said.
“This is not a short-term initiative, it will continue through the long term,” she said. “It is important to note these patrols are not focused solely on the uptown area. There are many areas within the city that could use many eyes and ears.”
The Port Alberni RCMP Community Policing volunteers will be on active foot patrols in areas throughout the City of Port Alberni. Their role is as observers and reporters of suspicious and criminal activity that they may observe, Hayden said. The Citizens On Patrol volunteers will be highly visible in their yellow uniforms while working in teams doing patrols during business hours any day of the week.
Three volunteers, including new recruit Nicole Vermette, five-year veteran Gerry Stewart and eight-month volunteer Niyas Kurudamparambil Yoonus strolled along Third Avenue last Thursday, on one of Vermette’s first official Business Watch patrols.
“In two weeks I’ve probably put in 15 hours between training and everything else,” Vermette said. She is in the application process to join the RCMP and signed on with C.O.P.S. to gain experience. She joined the Business Watch patrols to show more volunteer presence to businesses and residents. “I hope the visibility deters crime,” she said.
Yoonus has been living in the Alberni Valley for eight months and although he is working at Subway now, he is planning a career in law enforcement. “I was new to this town…and only knew people from Subway,” he said, so he joined C.O.P.S. to meet new people. “I am not a citizen (of Canada) right now; I need more time and when I checked online, this was the best way to start.”
Stewart has participated in nighttime Business Watch patrols, where volunteers go by businesses at night checking doors to make sure they are locked and that nothing is happening that shouldn’t be. “It was decided by the RCMP that we needed an extra presence up here (Uptown). They talked to C.O.P.S. to see if there was any interest in helping out the city by creating more visibility for businesses around town,” he said.
Hayden stressed that these individuals are volunteers and not police officers.
“They are concerned citizens of Port Alberni volunteering their time to give back to the community. Given they are volunteers and in the interest of their safety, they will be following the Observe, Record and Report protocol whenever they should encounter a suspicious activity or activity involving potential conflict.
“Their role is not to engage, rather to be a visible presence and to report any findings or observations that they encounter during the course of their patrol to the appropriate resource. The public is reminded to call police directly when they need policing services or should they witness a suspicious or criminal activity.”
For those who would like to be part of the solution and help the community through volunteering with community policing programs, please contact the Community Policing Office at the Harbour Quay or 778-421-3578, or Cpl. Amelia Hayden at 250-724-8908.
Volunteers are required to go through an application process that involves a Police Information Check and an interview prior to being accepted.