Citizens on Patrol under new management

By on February 14, 2018
Police files. (Herald files).

 

A local crime prevention organization has teamed up with the community policing office (CPO) to form a dynamic duo.

“We’ve just taken over the Citizens on Patrol group so they’re no longer a standalone group that liaises with the [Merritt RCMP] detachment. They’re going to be falling under our umbrella,” RCMP representative with the community policing office, Tracy Dunsmore, told the municipality’s police committee at its last meeting (Jan. 23).

The Merritt Citizens on Patrol (COP) has been operating for some two decades, predating the CPO, which the group will now submit its patrol reports to.

“We’re still doing our own thing without a problem, it’s just basically for insurance purposes and also for support,” COP co-ordinator Lonni Boszko told the Herald.

As an official program of the community policing office, the COP will receive assistance with recruitment and the purchasing of equipment, Dunsmore told the Herald.

“There will be a lot more communication,” said Dunsmore. “If we have a certain area of town that’s seeing more crime than others we can set out an email to the group [and] ask them for extra patrols.”

Historically, insurance for COP members was covered by the RCMP, but a decision from E-Division saw local groups recently presented with the possibility of that arrangement coming to an end if they opted to remain independent rather than join their local community policing offices, Dunsmore told the police committee.

“If they decided to stay a standalone group then they would have to provide their own insurance and sign a memorandum of agreement with the detachment commander,” Dunsmore said.

Boszko told the Herald that as a CPO program, the group now has the benefit of having the RCMP set up training exercises for them.

“They will continue the way they have been in their meetings, setting their own schedules, going out on patrols and reporting,” Dunsmore told the Herald.

The group consists of about 14 volunteers who patrol all of Merritt, checking the downtown, alleys, trailer parks and fields around town for any suspicious activity. Members typically complete four-hour shifts driving around the city in their own vehicles, keeping notes which are compiled into a report.

“They decided that it was a lot safer,” said Boszko of the RCMP’s decision. “There’s so many groups out there. A lot of the bigger cities [RCMP has] vehicles they provide for the citizens patrol, so I think that was why they decided they had best get all of us on the same page.”

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