By LeRae Haynes
One unique group of volunteers in Williams Lake operates as the eyes and ears of the RCMP, patrolling the streets, the businesses, the parks and schools in the community.
(Bob Macintosh was one of the Citizens on Patrol on bicycles today at the Grad Parade. Photo by Cailin Cousins)
They provide security for special events throughout the year and work to create positive relationships with business owners, residents and students, while helping to keep them safe.
Citizens on Patrol in Williams Lake, on foot, on the road, on bicycles and on horseback, are in the middle of a very busy season.
They provided security for events like the Rick Hansen Anniversary event, Relay for Life and the Big Bike ride, and will also volunteer at the Run for Kids and events throughout Stampede weekend, including the Parade.
Bob Macintosh is the Citizens on Patrol coordinator. He explained that signing up as a volunteer gives people flexible, interesting, satisfying ways to help out in their own community.
“At special events we act as security: we’re a presence to keep an eye on things and make sure people are safe. We cover events like the Harvest Fair, the Indoor Rodeo and the Santa Claus Parade,” he stated.
“At big events we can have as many as 20 volunteers on site—this community is very good for volunteering.” One of the Citizens on Patrol responsibilities are patrols at high schools. “The schools invited us to come and provide a positive, secure presence. We walk into classrooms and talk to kids, we pop into the cooking class to see what they’re up to. We get to know the teachers and the kids,” he continued.
“We’re also working on a pilot project with the RCMP in the schools. We have such great kids in this town, and it’s a pleasure to get to know them.” Bob said he’s been working with kids for years, including as a member of the Vancouver Police Department youth detail. “We try to be as professional as we can as volunteers. We designed the Citizens on Patrol (COP) jackets and hats. People know we work closely with the RCMP and they treat us with respect. We are the eyes and ears for the police,” he noted. These volunteers do street patrols and walkabouts, concentrating on places like Boitanio Park and the Stampede Grounds. “We talk to the security guards at the mall and also exchange information with other security programs in town. We pop into businesses to say hello.“We do bike patrols, foot patrols and horse patrols and vehicle patrols. On a bike, a horse, or on foot you can get around quieter and faster, you have good visibility and you can hear better,” he said.
“I remember once walking a block with a new volunteer and we heard someone break a big window at Bob’s Shoes. We walked up and he ran off.” Bob does all the interviews for the volunteers, and says that what he looks for is the unique skill set they bring to the group, adding that it’s also important that they are compatible with the rest of the team. “We have patrols out all day and all night, and you can work as short or long a shift as you want.”
Being part of COP is a unique volunteer opportunity. “It’s exciting and invigorating, there is a lot of variety and it’s truly satisfying to help keep your community safe on the streets,” he stated.
“You work in regular communication with RCMP officers on patrol, and receive monthly reports of crimes and where they happened so that we can increase our patrols in the areas where they’re needed.”
Bob said he started with Citizens on Patrol before he retired from his RCMP career in 2002. He said that when he came on board the group went from 12-30 members in two months, thanks to some heavy recruiting. He said they really enjoy having First Nations volunteers on patrol, stating that they’re great role models for the kids in the community. A former detachment commander, he said he did a survey in the community about how RCMP are perceived in the community. “The best responses were from high school kids. They were brutally honest. They said things like ‘You communicate with us like we’re all bad’ and ‘you don’t give us a chance.’
“The adults gave us a standing ‘A’ but the kids grades us at a solid C+. We have such great kids in this community—with their artistic abilities and athletic abilities and their pride in what they can do,” he continued. “We can certainly use more of that in our community.”
In order to join Citizens on Patrol you need to be at least 19 years old, have a record check and have an interview. “You get training on the streets and in the classroom, and learn practical things like traffic control and setting flares,” he said. “The RCMP come in and do some of the training—that’s just part of the positive, strong, respectful relationship COP has with the RCMP.”
For more information about Citizens on Patrol, including how to volunteer, phone 250-305-1041.
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