With a recent wave of crime in Eckville, citizens can rest a little easier knowing their neighbors are looking out for them.
Citizens on Patrol, a provincial initiative where citizens work alongside RCMP officers in order to provide information about suspicious or criminal activity, is fully up and running. This is important because the closest RCMP detachment is in Sylvan Lake, meaning that response times can run up to 30 minutes, meaning criminals could have time to leave Town before officers are on the scene.
One of the organizers of this initiative, John Doe, is pleased that this service is set up in Town. (Citizens on Patrol have asked the Eckville Echo to remain anonymous in order to protect its members from criminal repercussions.)
“Citizens on patrol is a volunteer program where citizens from the town are working with the RCMP to pool information,” Doe said. “The response time for Eckville is sometimes up to 30 minutes and if something happens, it could take a long time for them to get there. We try to be the eyes and ears for the RCMP so we get information while things are still fresh and going on.”
Doe was clear that members of Citizens on Patrol were informed by the RCMP to remain bystanders in any criminal situation and that they should not become directly involved in order to ensure their safety.
“We are told that we are not supposed to be active ingredients,” Doe said. “We are not supposed to approach anyone; we are not supposed to try to stop anyone – we are just supposed to give information so that the RCMP can do their job better.”
Volunteers for the program do not have specific times that they are required to be on patrol, however Doe did mention that peak times for criminal behaviour is between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Having a close connection with the RCMP means that Citizens on Patrol can provide officers with needed details, that may not come out of surveillance cameras.
“We phone the RCMP, they know our names and we say this is Citizens on Patrol in Eckville and right now we see such and such a vehicle and they know how to respond,” Doe said.
He added that Citizens On Patrol can act as a crime deterrent. If someone knows they are being watched or followed by some one, they may move on and leave town.”
Members of Citizens on Patrol do go through RCMP mandated training in order to protect the safety of the community as well as their own. The program in Eckville comes after a generous donation from the Town of Eckville and the organizers are still looking for volunteers, who can sign up at the Town Office.
“The more volunteers we have, the less you would have to do individually,” Doe said.
He added, “it’s more like if and when you have time – we want you to do that. It’s the idea knowing that we have something here and it could serve as a deterrent.”