- Gayle Baker
Celebrating an Amazing RCMP and Community Partnership and Sargent Clive Seabrook
Updated: Mar 1
Eighteen - plus two very well-behaved large dogs - joined this ASK Salt Spring gathering to welcome RCMP’s Sergeant Clive Seabrook. After our Territorial Acknowledgment, he told us what excites and delights him. Among the many things that make him begin each day with cheer and hope are:
A) Last November marked the beginning of Clive’s third year on Salt Spring. While his focus on community policing and a friendly presence takes time to fully-assess, he is now seeing satisfying statistics. These include:
An impressive 90% drop in complaints concerning Centennial Park,
A drop in all calls from approximately 3,500 a year to just under 3000,
A drop in mental health calls from 530 in 2021 to 270 last year.
B) Our RCMP force is now fully-staffed and has been for the past seven months. Salt Spring is very fortunate to have an amazing group of Police Officers, support staff, and guards who work hard every day to keep our community safe.
C) Clive is also quite excited about our soon-to begin Ambassador Program, still in its development stage and not yet ready for a formal introduction. (Ambassador enthusiasts will be our special ASK Salt Spring guests on Friday, June 23, 11-1, in the Middle School Lobby.) But, as a quick glimpse, this program will have trained, volunteer Ambassadors with distinctive vests greeting folks all around Ganges, offering help for all when needed and, hopefully, even offering a welcoming beverage or cookie to accompany that smile.
Initiated by a comment by Clive at ASK Salt Spring some months ago and a series of conversations with a number of caring local nonprofits, this initiative is a collaboration between the RCMP, Chamber of Commerce, Salt Spring Community Health Society, Salt Spring Health Advancement Network, and ASK Salt Spring. This new initiative was just awarded a $5,000 CRD Grant in Aid for start-up expenses. Look for Ambassadors wearing vests in Ganges this spring.
According to Clive, this Ambassador Program is an important step in the right direction: While RCMP officers will come and go, this important project will have long lasting effect by offering a caring continuity as well as a way new officers can begin to build that connection with our community.
Expressing pleasure shared throughout our community with the great results since Clive has been here, a participant asked, What can we do to keep you here? As you may know, Salt Spring has been designated a Limited Duration Post, often requiring transfer after four years. While these postings are often so designated due to isolation and other hardships, our island is categorized this way due to limited support staff as well as the difficulty of living in a small community in which one works. Difficult to get away from his duties, Clive is often buttonholed during errands and family time. While he monitors this 24/7 responsibility by caring carefully for his mental health, RCMP burnout in small communities, such as Salt Spring, is too common. Historically the RCMP solution has been to transfer officers every four years.
Could Clive stay longer than his allotted four years? Possibly, but he also reminded us that RCMP decision-makers may determine that his effective management style is more badly-needed in a community other than Salt Spring. So, What can we do? Stay tuned, write letters if needed, and, when Minister Farnsworth comes to ASK Salt Spring this Friday, March 3, 11-1, in (one time location!) the Ganges Firehall), tell Minister Farnsworth what a great job Clive his doing for our community.
A participant lauded Clive's skill set, making connections, listening, helping - establishing good relationships with all in our community. This solid foundation of understanding has been proven to ameliorate trouble if it arises. We were reminded of Clive’s initial weeks on Salt Spring: With a home that badly-needed renovation and decorating, he spent his first few off-duty weeks here working on his home. For a break, he went to Centennial Park in his work-stained clothes with his big dogs. He learned a lot, both about how some Salt Springers looked askance at him as one of them and how the Centennial Park regulars included him in their conversations. Needless to say, the regulars got quite a shock when he arrived on duty in uniform, but that foundation of understanding had been initiated, a foundation that has grown during the two years Clive has been with us.
When Clive was asked what the Chamber could do to help him support businesses, he reminded us that his philosophy was that all have rights to enjoy Ganges as well as the responsibility to also honour the rights of others. He told us that he joined the RCMP a later in life, a small business owner before becoming an officer. He believes that it is this perspective that allows him to fully understand the rights of business owners while also remembering that others also have legitimate needs.
It was suggested that the Chamber might be able to help by addressing Saturday morning traffic problems. (Stay tuned on that. . . .) Surveillance cameras were also briefly discussed. While Clive is not envisioning a Ganges filled with surveillance cameras, he also noted that a tagger, for example, could blow through our village one night adding graffiti everywhere with neither a witness nor a camera to deter him/her. In Clive’s opinion, a few more well-placed and well marked cameras would be very helpful.
Two participants spoke of some very attractive group deals on such cameras. Clive offered to share the list of current Salt Spring business with surveillance cameras with the Chamber, and there was a commitment to follow-up offering local businesses attractive deals on solar-powered, non-wired, easy to install, and very inexpensive cameras.
When Clive was asked what he was doing about illegally parked vehicles - especially campers - in Ganges, a complicated discussion resulted. A bit of history: Salt Spring does not have a Parking Service. While it would be allowed within the Transportation Commission bylaw, approving this new service has not yet been pursued. Were CRD to decide to proceed, a Referendum (or Alternate Approval Process requiring 10% in opposition to defeat it.) would be required. Not only would voter approval be required, but, as a new service, a tax allocation would be needed to manage this program, likely installing parking meters to somewhat defray costs. For now, no agency is charged with monitoring parking on Salt Spring.
Some months ago, and frustrated by the number of abandoned vehicles on our streets, Clive requested that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) post No Overnight Parking signs in a number of places in Ganges. With MoTI’s Area Manager Owen’s help, these signs prohibiting overnight parking were soon installed. (Thanks, Owen!)
A participant asked why campers are still parking overnight in prime village parking spots, some staying weeks, littering, and making noise. It soon became clear that the sometimes-unsightly campers in our village were far more than an enforcement issue. Instead, the number living in their vehicles appears to stem from our serious lack of affordable, secure housing. Some participants spoke of their experiences forced to sleep in their vehicles, lamenting how cold it is these days and how terrifying when angry community members bang on their camper in the middle of the night shouting threats.
Clive’s commitment is to clear our street of abandoned vehicles. He is confident that we would be shocked if we knew how many out-of-province vehicles were simply abandoned on our streets. His success in his clearly-mandated mission will rid our island of many of these abandoned vehicles.
Concerning those parking illegally while sleeping in their vans, he and his Offices are far more likely to speak with them, suggesting that there are plenty of off-road places to park that are not posted and do not take valuable business parking spaces. They will also suggest that respect for the community in which they are sleeping requires not polluting with litter or noise.
But, of course, the solution is far more complicated. In addition to our huge housing issue, we have yet to address even the smaller issues: With most bathrooms locked at night, limited options for litter, and limited safe, legal spaces to park campers overnight, we, as a community, have much to do to sensitively and creatively face this challenge. Towing campers somewhere else simply did not seem to be the solution at this ASK Salt Spring gathering.
It was suggested that this is a CRD issue to solve. While this will likely require a far wider collaboration than simply CRD, we were reminded that Gary Holman will be our special guest at ASK Salt Spring Friday, March 10, 11-1, in the Middle School Lobby.
Switching gears, a participant asked Clive about recent tragic deaths, suspected to be drug-related. Clive was questioned about what the RCMP is doing to arrest folks selling the drugs that are killing Salt Springers. There appeared to be no sympathy in the circle for those selling fentanyl or drugs laced with it.
Clive began by speaking briefly of his years as an RCMP Drug Enforcement Officer and his extensive knowledge of this subject. We learned that fentanyl has been around for many years and, originally purely medical, is still widely-used in anesthetics and pain management. Unfortunately, cutting expensive drugs like heroin with less-expensive fentanyl quickly became a very big, lucrative business.
Salt Spring, long isolated from this multi-million dollar industry, has now been tragically hit by it. While Clive told us that the investigations of the six recent deaths are with the B.C. Coroners Office, only two are suspected to be overdoses. But, two are clearly too many. We also learned that evidence of an overdose death is generally obvious and that Clive is relatively confident identifying a drug overdose, despite a shockingly long, wait - up to 18-24 months - for official laboratory and Coroner findings.
When Clive was asked why these known drug dealers were still walking Salt Spring streets, he reminded us that arrests have been made and these suspected traffickers are currently accused, on bail, and awaiting trial. Speaking only in generalities, he told us a bit about what he and his Officers are doing to apprehend these drug lawbreakers.
While Clive is doing all that he can do legally to apprehend, charge, and convict drug dealers selling deadly drugs, he also reminded us that drug users can do more to avoid an overdose. His message was clear: Before you use, remember these things; they could save your life:
Never use alone;
Always have Naloxone with you (https://harmreduction.org/issues/overdose-prevention/overview/overdose-basics/understanding-naloxone/).
Always make sure that you have a cell phone that has service when using. Calling 9-1-1- may save your life. There are too many dead zones on Salt Spring. Use in a safe spot.
Naloxone can wear off in 30 minutes, and the person can relapse into an overdose: Stay with the person until the ambulance arrives;
Be prepared to use CPR while you wait for the Ambulance.
When Clive was asked whether alcohol abuse was rampant on Salt Spring, he acknowledged it was but asked us to focus on the relatively-recent arrival of fentanyl and fentanyl-laced drugs as our top concern.
As 1:00 approached, Clive was asked what else he does beyond drug enforcement. We learned that a day in his life is chock-full of meetings, emails, and many, many requests for assistance. In part due to our unique governance model, it is Clive’s observation that Salt Springers call the RCMP for just about anything, many issues that are not even RCMP responsibilities. He gets calls about parking, hospital concerns, vagrancy, vandalism, assault, landlord/tenant issues, traffic, and the list goes on. . . . Shockingly, each time a complaint is made, a report is created, even if the complaint is not even an RCMP issue. Needless to say Salt Spring RCMP Officer’s weeks are busy and also chock-full of paperwork.
Time to leave was soon upon us. Before departing, we expressed our heartfelt appreciation to Clive for the amazing transformation his presence has made upon our community. A bright light seeking solutions rather than problems, we all agreed how lucky Salt Spring is to have Clive and his likeminded Officers working with us in our community. (Thanks, Clive!)
Please join us Friday, March 3, 11-1, in the (one time only location!) the Ganges Firehall to welcome MLA Adam Olsen and Minister Mike Farnworth.
What would you like to ask them:
What do you see as Salt Spring’s most immediate safety challenges?
How do you propose to address them?
What can we do to help make our community safer?
What safety measures would you like to see implemented in 2023?
Concerning the review of the Police Act, were there any surprises?
What were they?
Do you foresee any significant changes in the Police Act as a result of this review.
Please join us Friday, March 3, 11-1, in (one time location!) the Ganges Firehall to welcome Adam and Mike.
ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!
***New fundraising option***
You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.
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Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.
A heartfelt Thank-You!