The Merritt RCMP and Community Policing Office (CPO) are often seen working hand in hand, and the community engagement sessions held at the Merritt Civic Centre over the past two weeks were no exception. Looking to connect with Merrittonians and answer their burning questions, RCMP officers and CPO staff gathered for two sessions on safety in the community.
The first event held was a Business Watch Seminar, which took place on November 29 and was geared towards downtown business owners looking to increase security and employee safety at their establishments. Approximately half a dozen participants were present, with questions mostly geared towards diffusing tense situations with customers and loiterers. Merritt RCMP and CPO members gave presentations and fielded questions on a variety of topics, from decriminalization to preventing property crime. Organizers told the Herald that the event was just one part of their plan to engage the community during a busy time.
“We’re just hoping to engage the community and talk about public safety,” said Cst. Blake Chursinoff, Merritt’s community policing officer.
“There’s a few things coming down the pipe here, in terms of laws, and we hope to just educate them, to be here so that we can answer their questions, and to show that we are transparent and accessible.”
The second event, focused more generally towards members of the public, took place on December 6, and had a similar agenda. About a dozen community members attended, leading to many conversations and engaging questions during the Q&A period. A few common themes were present at both community engagement events, when CPO staff presented about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), a method of crime prevention that utilizes urban and architectural design. Merritt RCMP officers presented about the provincial government’s upcoming three year trial, which will see many forms of drug possession and use decriminalized.
After the trial’s effective date of January 31, 2023, those found with less than 2.5 grams of certain illicit substances for personal use will no longer have their drugs seized, or be arrested and charged. Instead, police will offer information on available addictions, healths, and social supports, but Chursinoff added that the RCMP will no longer respond to reports of drug use or possession in public places. Downtown business owners and community members alike voiced their concern over the trial, with many wondering aloud how crime rates could be influenced. Despite the sensitive and difficult nature of the questions and discussions, Community Policing Office staff said the engagement is what it was all about.
“It’s just nice for policing and community policing to get back out there into the community and listen to what people have for concerns,” added Marlene Jones, CPO coordinator.
Chursinoff and Jones were both hopeful that attendees would leave with more confidence and information necessary to deal with property crime and other safety concerns in the community. They encourage Merrittonians to reach out and inquire about the wide range of services offered by the Merritt CPO.
For more information on the Merritt Community Policing Office and its current offerings, call 250-378-3955, or visit www.merritt.ca/community-policing.