For roughly one year the position of Community Policing Officer has been vacant at the Whistler detachment, but that was rectified this week with the announcement that Constable Tara Merrie would be taking over the job.
It's familiar ground for Merrie, who has experience in community policing from previous posts in 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Stl'atl'imx (Mount Currie). She's also a certified DARE (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education) officer.
The Community Policing Officer is generally the point of contact for organizations that are active in Whistler, as well as an outreach position that requires active involvement.
A short list of Merrie's responsibilities include youth and school-based policing programs like Stranger Danger, bringing DARE to high schools, community safety and awareness programs, crime prevention strategies and tracking local crime data to identify patterns.
According to Sergeant Shawn LeMay, the other members of the detachment filled in while the position was vacant and will continue to assist the position in the future.
Merrie has hit the ground running.
"I've been visiting the schools to talk about Halloween safety, met with the Brownie group, there's a MAC (Mature Action Committee) lifestyle fair on Thursday evening that I'll be attending. I've been prepping schools for DARE, (there's a crime) prevention program that we're getting off the ground, and it's only day two," said Merrie.
Part of her role will be connecting with organizations like the local bar association, the hotel loss prevention association, and other groups - assisting where she can, and representing the RCMP. Cst. Merrie has an interest in tracking crime trends, such as the theft of bikes in the community over the summer, so she can communicate that information to the public. Crime prevention is also a part of the position, and Cst. Merrie will likely be attending a provincial conference on crime prevention to look for strategies she can bring back to Whistler.
On the public safety side, she's interested in providing self-defence classes for women and seniors in the community so they feel safe at home.
The benefit of having a dedicated officer in community policing, says Sgt. LeMay, is that groups will have a single point of contact with the RCMP to build relationships. Another benefit is that, unlike other officers filling in community policing roles, Cst. Merrie won't be called away in the middle of presentations to answer police calls - something that has happened in the past.
Working with more community groups will also give the RCMP more input on what the town's priorities are when it comes to policing, "which is one of the things we haven't been able to do," without a community policing officer, said Sgt. LeMay. "We want the community to share with us and tell us what they want to give the most attention."