The RCMP wants you. Led by Sergeant Steven Wright, the local detachment is turning to volunteers in the community to help police Whistler through a newly launched program dubbed Citizens on Patrol (COP).
Wright explained the program not only identifies crime but also helps prevent it, since would-be thieves are put off by the idea that there is extra surveillance around town. He has worked with COP programs in Westbank, Kelowna, and Comox Valley.
“It is a huge win-win for the community,” said Wright.
“I just don’t see a downside to the Citizens on Patrol program.”
He added the program is also successful in helping find criminals or get warrants.
COP will see regular people patrolling Whistler for a few hours each weekend, keeping their eyes and ears open for suspicious activity. Volunteers will be paired up and will do the patrols either by vehicle, bicycle or foot.
To help man the program, the organization has enlisted the help of retired education administrator Ken Harvey, who will serve as the programs coordinator.
Harvey’s past work with the Vancouver School Board, including work with many volunteer reliant groups, lends itself well to helping set up Whistler’s program.
“One of the positives of this stage of development, one of the things that excited me the most when I saw the ad in the paper, was that volunteers will get to a have a real say in the direction of the program,” said Harvey.
“It is a really good opportunity to volunteer and contribute.”
Volunteers will have input on what type of patrols will be done, how many volunteer hours a week will patroller have to put in, and fundraising. Volunteers will also be educated on things like radio etiquette and self defense, and will meet with RMCP officers often to discuss local crime.
Said Wright: “This isn’t a group of people who are going out completely untrained.”
“Every day they will have communication with the police, such as pointing out areas where we are having problems in, stolen vehicles we are looking for, criminals who have warrants for their arrest.”
Another advantage of COP patrollers is they can give evidence to a case.
“They also make excellent witnesses in court, and they are expected to testify in courts to gain evidence,” said Wright.
“Once an incident is over, we have them write down a statement right away on what they saw.”
McPhail said that finding a location for Whistler’s program is an issue the RCMP are currently facing.
“We thought about using the police station, but there are drawbacks, such as taking a very long time to do a security clearance. In that time, you could lose volunteers,” he said, adding the RCMP are still looking for a place in town for the program.
The local COP program is hoping for about 16 people come forward. Volunteers will have to through minimal check such as a criminal record check and driving record check to make sure they are in good standing. There is no age restriction.
People interested in the program should contact McPhail.
Squamish already has a COP program in place, with a total of 10 volunteer, which has been helped reduce crime levels. Their operations are located out of the community police office.
In particular, vehicle break-ins have been a concern for local officers.
On Feb. 13, the Whistler RCMP responded to two calls of theft in the underground parking lots, which occurred between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Windows on both the vehicles had been smashed and the contents inside the vehicles stolen. The contents stolen valued about $3,000, and both victims were from out of town.
The Whistler RCMP is reminding residents and visitors to lock their vehicles and make sure they do not leave valuables in plain sight.