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Getting proactive on crime
There may have been a small turnout at Monday night's public forum led by the RCMP, but there was still a hearty discussion about the key issues facing Agassiz, Harrison and the surrounding areas.
Residents were invited to voice their concerns and ask questions of the RCMP members present from the Upper Fraser Valley Regional District. After about a three hour discussion among the 16 people who attended, those concerns were then boiled down to three topics that kept coming up — youth issues, crime prevention and drugs.
Const. Marc Tremblay, who facilitated the event, explained that knowing the residents' concerns will help him build a plan for the Agassiz RCMP to implement. The Agassiz public forum was one of four similar workshops held around the Upper Fraser Valley over the past few weeks. The results will be built into a one to three year priority plan, Tremblay explained, and won't take away from the number one priority of the police.
"We will never stop responding to calls," Tremblay said.
One of the biggest complaints of the night was the perceived slow response time to calls in the area. Many questioned aloud why they would call in crimes if an officer didn't attend immediately, if at all.
"It's crucial that if you do see something happening that you do report the crime," Tremblay said. "Numbers speak volumes."
Every time a crime is reported, a dot is put on a map. From there, the RCMP can create hotspots and direct their resources there. This helps in providing coverage in the right areas, but can also pinpoint the active neighbourhood of a prolific offender.
And across all regional, provincial and national levels of policing, getting prolific offenders off the street is a top priority.
Mayors from Harrison Hot Springs and Agassiz, along with Chief of Cheam, Sidney Douglas, all attended the forum, as did a handful of council members, business owners, and members of the public.
Something Douglas would like RCMP to keep in mind when dealing with First Nations locally is that there is a lack of trust for police among his community.
"Our people have seen adverse implications of what happened to their families," he said. First Nations RCMP member Gail Starr underlined that statement by adding that it was police officers who took children away to residential schools.
"We know how hard it is to build trust," she said. "It takes seven generations for a community to heal, and we are not there yet, and we work with that reality daily."
But overall, people want to see more youth involved with policing programs at a young age, through the DARE program, restorative justice, and regular, positive interactions with RCMP members.
Years ago, one resident said, there was a Policeman's Ball. It was a popular event and everyone turned out to meet and mingle with local police officers. Having a better sense of community, and a larger police presence, can help reduce crime. RCMP took notes from the public on ideas to liaise with the community, and how to strengthen partnerships.
Finally, another concern was the impending changes to the medical marijuana licensing, and how the RCMP plan to deal with it locally.