By Cole Parkinson
The Municipal District of Taber’s Regional Enforcement program is almost ready to roll out one of its new initiatives.
The Range Patrol program, which includes volunteers to be the “eyes and ears” of the community, was discussed further in detail during the M.D.’s policy meeting on Feb. 22.
One of the big developments for the program that they want to highlight for the public is a position within Range Patrol won’t have a regimented hourly schedule.
“We’ve basically decided that we want it to be a more casual Range Patrol or Citizens on Patrol because we don’t want to have a vehicle right now. What we’re going to ask is for citizens to become involved by basically creating a registry of approved citizens that can report things in range patrol capacity,” said Tiana Straga, volunteer coordinator for Range Patrol.
With the amount of area in the M.D., keeping the position casual will benefit everyone as those who join won’t feel the need to go on nightly patrols if they don’t want to.
Also by making it more of an information and reporting position instead of patrolling the streets position, it will effectively keep citizens out of danger while also allowing them to participate in a matter that can help out the local enforcements.
The “patrols” they want patrollers to undertake is in their normal routines whether it be walks, bike rides or commutes into work and back home. The training of these individuals will be key as the reports they make will need to be accurate as well as descriptive.
“We came up with this observe and report system. Anybody can call the police and report a crime, sometimes they don’t but we’re going to work on a model where we train people to be observers,” said Kirk Hughes, development and community safety officer for the M.D. “When we train people in the hamlets, we’ve empowered those people to be those eyes and ears. We’ve given them the training, the contact information, we’ve vetted them and selected them. From there that information would be passed to the RCMP.”
The biggest thing coming out of training they are looking for is for them to be confident in their abilities to notice things that can lead to a good report for the RCMP and Community Peace Officers.
“We want to train people to be good observers,” added Straga.
The M.D. also wants to provide range patrollers with stickers and signs promoting there are individuals in the community watching out for unlawful behaviour and actions.
The hope is for criminals to think twice before committing a crime if they know people in the community have training and won’t hesitate to contact authorities.
“It creates a sense of community, it lets people know that people are watching,” said Straga. “Citizens start to be more aware, it’s not just the select few members of Range Patrol, it’s the whole community.”
If Range Patrollers do witness a crime, they report to the RCMP with what they saw and give as detailed information as possible.
“These trained observers will pass it onto the RCMP, the RCMP will deal with the call depending on the severity of the issue. That observer will send an email to our Range Patrol account and the next day a CPO will contact that person,” said Hughes, who also stated that an email will be sent to all participating members of the program informing them to keep an eye out for the perpetrator.
With the hope of creating a network of patrollers across the M.D., the next question council had was how many members were needed to kick start the program.While a large collection of signed up members would be stellar, Hughes says there isn’t a set number of members needed to get going.
“The truth is any number of people would be good. If we get a Range Patrol of 40 people in Grassy Lake, that’s fantastic. If we get 10, if we get four, that’s four people. Judging from the emails that I’ve received already, we’re looking at over 20 people to start. The training will be relatively, like an evening type thing. We’re looking at things like roles and responsibilities, who do you contact and what do you say. What are you reporting, who, what, when, when where, why.”
Even though the program has yet to officially kick off, council wanted to know what the program could look like in four months time.
“Having this network of people out in the M.D. collecting information for us, passing that critical information onto the RCMP, those lines of communication being drawn by the M.D. and the RCMP, that flow occurring and results. What we’re looking for is results. If somebody is taking the time to be a Range Patroller and is giving that information to the RCMP, I think that person deserves to get results back,” said Hughes.
Right now they are still looking for members to sign up for the program and membership is only eligible to M.D. residents. Once signed up a criminal record check will be needed.
An open house will be tonight in Grassy Lake at Chamberlain School, one will be in Enchant on March 5 at Enchant Library and finally in Taber on March 8 at the Municipal District of Taber Administration Office-Reeve Room all from 6-8 p.m.
If you were unable to attend any of the meetings but would still like to be involved, you can contact 403-223-4784 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.