Police priorities a focus of RCMP Town Hall meeting in Swift Current

Staff Sergeant Gary Hodges led the Swift Current Municipal RCMP Detachment’s Town Hall meeting on April 28.

A Town Hall meeting hosted by the Swift Current Municipal RCMP Detachment on April 28 provided an important two-way exchange of information between the RCMP and residents of the City of Swift Current.

There were a total of 25 people in attendance at the 90 minute long Town Hall meeting hosted at the Legion Hall last Thursday, with both the police and members of the public taking the opportunity to discuss a series of issues.

“I think actually it was good dialogue with the community. That’s the whole idea behind this Town Hall is try to engage people within the community,” explained Staff Sergeant Gary Hodges.

“There’s 17,000 plus citizens here in Swift Current, we obviously can’t talk to each and every one of them on a daily basis. So this type of a forum gives anybody that opportunity. And we encourage it. And I think we took down some good points that we’ll follow through.”

A portion of the meeting spelled out the policing priorities in Swift Current, which are set annually in consultation with Swift Current City Council.

The 2018 priorities are:
1) Prevent and reduce the threat and impact of serious and organized crime related to drug trafficking.
2) Enhance road safety through the detection of drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol.
3) Prevent and reduce the incidents of crime involving youth.

“Two out of the three stayed the same this year,” Staff Sgt. Hodges noted. “The youth initiative was something that was brought onboard to try and reemphasize the value of that School Liaison position that we have.”

“Part of the priority planning is not to set yourself up to fail. So the targets that we’ve set, I have to be mindful of that – make sure they’re attainable for the guys that are out there on the street trying to meet those targets. Did we meet the targets last year? Yes we did. Have we increased them a step more? Yes. Because that’s what you want to do, you want to see growth, you want to see improvement, you want to see increase in attacking those problems.”

Swift Current’s detachment boasts 19 officers, consisting of one Staff Sergeant, one Sergeant, two Corporals, along with 15 Constables. The Constables consist of two plain clothes members, a school liaison officer, and 12 general duty investigation members.
Through a Municipal Police Service Agreement, the City of Swift Current pays 90 per cent of all policing costs, with 10 per cent contributed by the federal government. In communities below 15,000 population, the province pays 70 per cent of policing costs and the remaining 30 per cent covered by the federal government.

City RCMP services are supplemented by Swift Current Traffic Services which is based from the Swift Current Rural Detachment, Forensic Identification Services, collision reconstructionists, and other shared supports from other locations. Swift Current RCMP have had to reach out for additional policing resource support to deal with major crimes including kidnapping, extortion, plus serious assaults, and he noted that without this assistance and support they would have been unable to resolve these large files.

“I think when people have a perception of police, a lot of it comes from TV. With reality TV shows and CSI, and a lot of people don’t have a complete understanding of how we function, especially within the city,” Staff Sgt. Hodges explained.

“If they understand that what we’re trying to do is a result of consultation with the Council that they’ve elected, they see that we are trying to make the community a safer place based on what they want to see.”

He highlighted the benefits of the City supporting a School Liaison Officer, making Swift Current one of just a few communities in Saskatchewan with this resource. This officer provides policing in and around the Swift Current Comprehensive High School, serves as a resource and support person for school staff, plus handles other networking responsibilities. By following Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) protocols, seven students have been identified and a trio of students removed from schools because of their various risk factors for potentially committing violence.

Staff Sgt. Hodges also took the opportunity to share a few crime prevention tips with individuals in attendance.

In order to victim proof yourself, and your property, he reminded people to lock their vehicles, keep valuables out of sight, and take your keys out of your vehicle. There have been numerous incidents of individuals “car shopping” by looking for unlocked vehicles and items that can easily be taken from inside.

When these incidents happen, he also encourages community members to report these thefts and any damaged property, no matter how small. The RCMP have often been frustrated by catching an individual with items which appear to have been taken from unlocked vehicles, but without the items being reported stolen, individuals are often able to simply walk away from any charges.

“We can’t do it ourselves,” he said. “People have to take ownership. We need the community’s input and help to solve these problems and attack these priorities.”

He also raised awareness of city residents having unlocked sheds and garages. He recommends people, at the very least, close gates to their yards, in addition to getting to know your neighbours to keep extra eyes on your neighbourhoods, and to potentially install trail cameras if they have concerns.

“Don’t take the law into your own hands. Some individuals have the innate ability to encourage you to act outside of what you normally would do as a result of something they may say or do to encourage that behaviour in you. We don’t want to see that happen. We don’t want to see innocent people become the criminal as a result of a situation like that. So we encourage people just to call us. Let us deal with it. People do have rights and authorities under the Criminal Code for citizens arrests, but don’t take it beyond.”

During the Town Hall meeting he also stressed the importance of a two way street of information and communication.

“The more engagement we can have with more people in the community, the better service we can provide.”

There was also a discussion about the pending legalization of cannabis in Canada.
He noted that while there is pending legislation to legalize the use of cannabis, it currently is illegal and the RCMP will continue to police it as such.

He added that impaired driving by individuals on drugs has long been a part of the Criminal Code, and officers have long been taking drug recognition courses to identify individuals who are driving under the influence of drugs. RCMP will be tasked to get up to speed on any new detection methods for identifying cannabis impaired drivers if and when they become available.

Staff Sgt. Hodges also gave another reminder in the area of frauds. He noted that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In one specific fraud, he pointed out that Revenue Canada will never directly phone you in connection to tax collections.

“Ask somebody else. Don’t get caught up in it,” he advised, adding that unfortunately, once a group finds an area to be profitable, they keep coming back.”