A recent increase in rural crime has residents in Beiseker, Alta., looking to reboot their local crime watch program.
Citizens on Patrol programs are common across rural Canada. Residents take turns patrolling the streets, looking out for suspicious vehicles or signs of crime in their communities.
Susie Spurgeon, a former member of the Beiseker COP program, said their role is to simply observe and report to the RCMP.
“We are the eyes and ears,” Spurgeon said. “We do not approach the situation. If we see something suspicious, we call it in and we stay back. Let the professionals do their job.”
Spurgeon wants to revive the program in Beiseker but needs six to 10 residents to sign up. She has posted in local Facebook groups and said interest is on the rise.
“This weekend, I put a plea out. With it being a long weekend, I got a lot of responses. We all need to watch our neighbours just a little bit more closely.”
Other towns in Alberta have seen positive results when implementing COP groups. Flo Robinson, president of the COP program in Linden, Alta., said 40 to 50 members take two shifts a month, providing a visible deterrent against crime.
“The crime rate in Linden has dropped every year since we’ve been active,” Robinson said. “In comparison to the communities surrounding us, [the crime rate] is the lowest.”
Robinson said COPs work closely with local RCMP detachments, staying in contact during patrols and meeting to discuss crime statistics on a monthly basis.
Along with local patrols, Robinson wants to see an increase in RCMP personnel throughout rural Alberta.
“We need them out here. We need more coverage,” Robinson said. “[The RCMP] are working their tails off and they’re very good but there’s not enough of them.”
Robinson wants to work with the town of Beiseker to get their COP program up and running again but said the biggest hurdle is having enough citizens who are willing to volunteer their time.
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