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Citizen Patrol draws interest in Pemberton



Criminals beware - Pembertonians stand on guard for their community.

That was the message of an Oct. 8 meeting that sought to gauge community interest in a "Citizens on Patrol" program to help tackle a wave of vandalism that's struck the community.

Sgt. Steve Wright of the Whistler RCMP oversaw the meeting and said about 20 people showed up with interest in keeping Pemberton streets safe.

"It was an excellent response," he said. "Almost everyone signed up for the program, so we have an application form that we're going to send to them electronically, or people can come pick up a paper version."

Wright, who will soon be leaving the Whistler detachment for a posting on Vancouver Island, said Citizens on Patrol has been successful at combating crime in other communities he's served.

"I've been involved now with the program over 25 years," he said. "We have noticed a 10 to 20 per cent decrease in property crime when we have the citizen patrol in operation. (It's a) very successful program."

Wright stressed that citizens are only there to act as observers for local policemen. They're not to get directly involved in any incidents; they merely report what they see to the authorities.

"They're the eyes and ears of the police only," he said. "We're going to start with vehicle patrols on weekends. Depending on the interest and the coordination they have, they may develop it into a foot patrol but there's a bicycle component as well."

Pemberton has been looking into a citizen patrol after a string of acts of vandalism shocked the community this past summer. In July Pemberton Taxi found all six tires slashed on one of his buses, while another had four tires slashed. That was two weeks after two more buses were set on fire - one of them completely destroyed, the other severely damaged.

Those were just three of an estimated 70 instances of vandalism in 2009.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy was encouraged at the turnout for the patrol meeting, which needed 15 participants at minimum in order to proceed.

"We were all quite surprised at the turnout and we certainly exceeded the expectations of the RCMP," he said.

Sturdy added that the number of patrollers has yet to be determined. Willing participants still need to submit an application, which is available through the RCMP and will soon be available on the Village of Pemberton website.

Participants must submit the application and agree to a criminal record check but people will not be prohibited from taking part if they have a minor criminal infraction from a few years back.

"They want to know who they're dealing with, obviously," Sturdy said.

All participants must be 18 years of age or older and have a valid driver's license. Seniors are encouraged to get involved because they can "really form the backbone" of such organizations, according to Sturdy.

"The time commitment depends on how many people but they look for four to six hours a month," he said. "They'd start on a small scale, targeting certain days when people are available and when it works out and then expand as the program expands."



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