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RCMP report 2% vacancy rate, influx in recruits in Saskatchewan

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WATCH: The vacancy rate for RCMP in Saskatchewan is the lowest its been in years, but those living in rural areas are still frustrated with local staffing levels. Daniella Ponticelli reports. – Mar 12, 2020

As the head of RCMP in Saskatchewan touts low job vacancy rates, people living in rural areas still have concerns about police response.

RCMP Commanding Officer Mark Fisher addressed a large crowd at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention in Regina Thursday.

Fisher said since he started in late 2018, there’s been a “significant drop” in vacant positions in the province.

“We’re down to around two per cent right now, which is the lowest it’s been in years in this province,” he said, adding it was nearly 10 per cent a year a half ago.

READ MORE: Southwest Saskatchewan residents tell RCMP not to centralize policing in the region

“That obviously has an impact on the number of officers that are deployable in communities, and filling those vacancies and increasing presence in communities.”

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Fisher couldn’t provide an exact number of vacant positions in Saskatchewan, but noted the reduction is due to an influx of 90 recruits from RCMP depot.

“Each year we submit a number of what we feel is affordable, and what we in the province agree to take on in a cadet allotment, and then as long as depot can supply those cadets, that’s what we move forward with,” he said.

He also noted RCMP were seeing “good reductions” in property crimes in certain areas across the province.

READ MORE: Leaked emails between senior RCMP officers show alarming vacancies in Sask.

“When we hear about rural crime, a lot of it is around property crime and thefts from farms and rural residents and a sense of invasion, and it is — it’s a very personal crime,” he said, crediting the rural crime network and police prevention teams for the reduction.

“When we have a significant property crime and there’s something we feel the public could help us with … we’re getting that information out much quicker and it’s led to some significant property recoveries.”

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Despite the positive update, Coun. Garry Sumlic from the RM of Paddockwood in northern Saskatchewan said more needs to be done.

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He said over the last several years, he’s been robbed five times — most recently in November.

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The 74-year-old said he called RCMP, but the nearest staffed detachment is an hour away in Nipawin despite there being a detachment just 15 minutes away in Smeaton.

“They haven’t closed it down, but they don’t really staff it,” he said.

“Especially in the wintertime. In the summertime, they have two staffed out of Smeaton, but they transfer them to Candle Lake because there are more people around.”

Sumlic estimated that in total, he’s been robbed of around $20,000 worth of fuel and small equipment.

“There’s no insurance on [fuel] because you can’t insure that kind of stuff, you can’t prove what you had,” he said, adding criminals are increasingly more prepared for these targeted crimes.

READ MORE: App in development to connect rural Saskatchewan property owners, land users

Fisher acknowledged that geographic distance, and drug activity, remain challenges for RCMP in Saskatchewan.

That’s why, currently, consultation has been underway to review policing models in certain jurisdictions of the province. One consideration is a super-hub model for southwest Saskatchewan.

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“We’re not closing detachments in those areas, but simply looking at other options in those areas, possibly,” he said.

“We’re not locked into whatever those recommendations are. Obviously, we would consider them when we receive that report back, [and have] further consultations with some of the community leaders.”

Fisher is slated to be among the last to provide insight before the consultation wraps.

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