With new online chat groups recently forming in the tri-communities to reduce crime, Air Ronge Deputy Mayor Julie Baschuk is hopeful some residents will also want to join a Citizens of Patrol Program (COPP).
“This will be the third time as a council we have tried to get this initiative going,” she said. “COPP is an opportunity where you can take an active role in the community. You provide a positive, visible presence throughout your neighbourhood with the intent you’re going to deter the criminal activity.”
In 2018, the tri-communities experienced a surge of vandalism and break-and-enters, which left many people feeling unsafe in their homes. By forming a COPP, Baschuk said it shows residents care for one another, and lets others know criminal activity is not OK and has to stop. Since people tend to know their neighbours, she added residents patrolling will have a good idea about what’s deemed suspicious in their area.
All residents of the tri-communities are encouraged to reach out to Baschuk if interested in joining the program. If there’s enough people involved, she noted individuals would only need to volunteer once per month and likely during the time of their choosing. Anyone who joins COPP will also need to have a criminal record check completed and Baschuk added those involved would also be given access to a vehicle to do patrols if they wish to use it.
“We do encourage this program is done in pairs,” she said.
In the last few months, residents have also been coming together in groups on the WhatsApp platform to let each other know when suspicious activity is taking place. Baschuk belongs to one of three groups in Air Ronge and is supportive of them. She said it’s a way for residents to be engaged, connected and provide a sense of safety.
While the group acts to alert neighbours to potential criminals, Baschuk stated all incidents discussed online need to be reported to the RCMP. When they are reported, she noted the RCMP have been diligent to investigate the call in a timely manner.
“We’ve seen a lot of positivity coming out of it,” Baschuk said. “We’re seeing residents out patrolling in a healthy approach. This isn’t vigilantism. It’s a way for the community to band together, show people we care and we want to live in a safer place.”
If residents don’t belong to such a group yet, she urged them to contact the administrator for the group in their area and join.
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