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  • Gayle Baker

Celebrating Community Policing at its Best

November 5

Only nine gathered in the Dome at Rainbow Road Elementary School to engage in fascinating discussions with our special guest, RCMP’s Sergeant Clive Seabrook, for this week’s ASK Salt Spring. (Come on, Salt Spring. . . We need your voices too!) That said, the small numbers allowed a fruitful conversation in which all participated, leaving with both good information and a clear understanding of areas in our community that need attention.

After our Territorial Acknowledgement, Clive began by sharing some of the things on his mind. He is pleased with the results of regular patrols around our village. He and the other Salt Spring RCMP officers often pop into businesses regularly to check in. At first, some seemed a bit surprised when RCMP officers arrived, wondering what was wrong. Clive is pleased that those first largely superficial communications have evolved into a regular opportunity for our business community to share their observations and concerns with our RCMP team. Clive uses this information to identify areas of concern within the community.

Clive is pleased with happenings at Centennial Park, keeping his fingers crossed that activities there remain largely positive. While he credited some luck in addressing the issues that concerned so many last year, we also learned that he and his team have worked hard to encourage those in the Park not to hang out there for hour after hour. Instead, suggestions are that some occasionally move to the United Church Meadow and Propane Beach, also suggesting that those with dogs spend some of their time where they are welcomed at Mouats. With these simple suggestions, regular friendly patrols, and recognition that criminal activities are not tolerated, Clive reported that calls concerning Centennial Park have fallen an impressive 75% this year. (We also learned that of the approximately 2,900 RCMP calls received each year, a huge percentage, in the high 90s, do not involve those in and around Centennial Park.)

Clive shared that he, like so many of us, is being beaten down by our continuing COVID challenges. In addition to a large number of non-compliance calls, he is currently dealing with the requirement that all officers and federal employees must be vaccinated.

At his last visit to ASK Salt Spring this summer, he shared that we were on the verge of finally having a full contingent of offices. Since then, he shared his concerns that we have lost a few, including one (of two) administrative support staff and two of the eight officers either by leave or relocation. Clive also spoke briefly about the restart of required RCMP training that had been postponed during COVID, taking officers away for these important recertifications, adding further challenges to his staffing concerns. Despite these challenges, the officers and staff of the RCMP detachment remain positive and happy to live and work on Salt Spring Island.

When asked whether housing was the problem recruiting and retaining officers, Clive replied that it was only one of many factors. As many officers come from other expensive BC communities, Salt Spring’s high prices are not always the problem. In Clive’s opinion, an important housing issue his officers must face, aside from cost, is that one needs to be handy if one buys a Salt Spring home: Homes here seem to need more work than comparable ones in more urban settings. (Note: We heard the same lament about the apparent disrepair of some of our housing a few weeks ago from the couple trying to buy and repeatedly getting alarming results from their home inspections.)

A significant portion of our discussion revolved around the news that Lady Minto Foundation has purchased the SeaBreeze Inne with plans to renovate it for staff housing. While good news for hospital staffing challenges, the focus of the conversation was upon the approximately 15 who currently live there, possibly to be evicted as soon as December 31, 2021. While Clive had not yet heard this news, he committed to learning more about the development and the possible soon-to-evicted Salt Springers. Clive was clear that, without solutions, this disruption of so many could also become an RCMP problem. Stay tuned. . . .

A participant asked what could be done about tagging. We learned that we have recently had two waves of tagging in addition to the more random cases. While some of the perpetrators of the earlier wave were apprehended, no suspects have been identified in the more recent wave of tagging. (Those caught earlier this year have taken responsibility by participating in our local Restorative Justice process https://www.rjssi.org).

What if, Clive was asked, a citizen offered a $100 reward for anyone identifying a tagger that resulted in their arrest and conviction? While Clive agreed that this could work, he cautioned that corroboration of any information provided would be needed for any RCMP follow-up.

He was then asked, What if volunteers cleaned up and painted over the tagging? Clive reminded us that this tagging is often on either private or public property, like the signs on the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) right of way or CRD property. He cautioned us that community members should check with the owners where tagging has occurred (like CRD or MoTI) before going onto their property to assist with the cleanup. (Note: Andrew Gaetz, Emcon, our roads maintenance manager, will be joining us November 26. We will likely be able to learn the MoTI approach to tagging from him.)

We learned about Clive’s enthusiasm and commitment to volunteer programs like Speed Watch and Community Policing, .and the complications of initiating these programs in our community. Speed Watch, funded by ICBC, would train volunteers to monitor vehicular speeds at random locations throughout our community. A helpful warning to speeding motorists, this program also collects speed data as well as identifying those far exceeding the speed limit so that Clive can write them a friendly, cautionary letter.

While Clive has received many indications of interest from possible volunteers, complications concerning this Speed Watch Program include concern about liability for volunteers driving to and parking at speed reader locations. Surprisingly, Clive has also received some negative feedback about initiating this program, some wondering why volunteers were being recruited for a job RCMP should be doing. Undaunted but cautious, Clive is committed to proceed with care.

Community Policing, a volunteer group clearly identified by jackets and walking around our village, is another program of interest to Clive. Interacting with friendliness and information, these volunteers would serve as ambassadors, also trained to note and report concerning activities.

It is possible that if we had a Community Policing Program, Speed Watch liability issues may be solved by the availability of a van to transport volunteers and the speed reader from the RCMP building. But, each program will take time to initiate, each requiring plentiful paperwork that only Clive can complete.

These volunteer programs are examples of the community cooperation Clive sees as needed in our community. He welcomes his opportunities to come to ASK Salt Spring and would support a roundtable comprised of those leaders in our community who can address the concerns expressed.

What if community leaders met once a month to address and solve the issues that mean most to us? While Clive could not take the lead in this effort, he would be a strong and consistent supporter and participant. Creative wheels are churning. Stay tuned. . . .

Note: Sound familiar? Anyone remember the Inter-Agency Working Group recommended by the Community Alliance Governance Working Group Report (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/governance-options-on-salt-spring)?

As 1:00 approached, we all prepared to leave the lovely Dome, so appreciative that we have Clive in our community, finally offering that openness, enthusiasm, creativity, and gentle touch to address complex safety and security challenges that have impacted our community. A heartfelt Thank-you, Clive!

Please join us in our winter location in the Library Program Room Friday, November 12, 11-1, to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman. While he will be pleased to answer any of your questions, he will also be prepared to present the CRD’s 2022 budget, with all you ever wanted to know about Salt Spring’s proposed expenditures next year.

Please join us in our new location at the Library Program Room. Masks will be required and room capacity is limited to 25. . .but, there may even be coffee to accompany the always-offered homemade chocolate chip cookies :)

See you Friday, November 12 in the Library Program Room!

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


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