Latest RCMP town hall sees discussions on downtown issues, new Crime Watch network

The Don Ross Centre was the venue for another one of the Battlefords RCMP detachment’s town hall meetings with the public on their enforcement activities.

About 35 people attended the latest meeting, which lasted for two and a half hours. This followed a similar format to the other town halls the Battlefords RCMP detachment has put on. They estimate they have held 25 such meetings over the last year and a half, held in communities throughout the detachment area.

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Staff-Sgt. Darcy Woolfitt and Sgt. Jason Teniuk presented on the detachment’s activities, and fielded no shortage of questions on a variety of issues.

Missing from the meeting were the people that those in the audience seemed most interested in posing questions to – members of the local city and town councils.

One of those in the audience loudly expressed disappointment that no elected members from either the city or town council were there.

“Not a one,” he said, shaking his head.

Another complained the meeting had not been well publicized by the city. He characterized the city’s attitude as “if you ignore it, maybe the problem will go away.”

A hot topic raised was the issue of street harassment downtown — an issue discussed earlier that week by councillors at the city’s planning committee meeting. One attendee asked if there was a significant increase of harassment calls but it was noted the CSOs usually take those calls first. Woolfitt said if the individuals need to be arrested, then they give the RCMP a call.

A sore point for those at the meeting was the park benches placed on 101st Street outside downtown businesses, including the banks. One resident called it “one of the dumbest things the city ever did,” pointing to some of the people the benches attract.

But Woolfitt noted the issue was not the bench. Instead, it is people there every day who are “dealing with a lifetime of problems. They need more help than we as a police service can offer.”

Another sore point at the meeting was foot patrols. Frustration was expressed that not enough foot patrols seemed to be happening downtown from either the RCMP or community safety officers.

“I work downtown, I’ve never seen one walk anywhere,” one person said.

But the meeting was not all doom and gloom.

A major item discussed was a new initiative for the area announced earlier that day – the province’s expansion of the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network to central and northern Saskatchewan.

Battlefords MLA Herb Cox was on hand at the meeting to help explain it. A short video was shown explaining how the system works. RCMP send text messages or emails or make phone calls to residents with information about criminal activity; residents are then able to contact police with tips.

The network was launched in March in southern Saskatchewan. Cox said there was so much response from central and northern Saskatchewan that the RCMP decided to take it province-wide.

Interest was expressed by Battlefords residents. About 5,400 had signed up in the first two weeks and Teniuk said about 800 of those were from the Battlefords alone.

“What’s exciting to me about it is it’s secure, it’s fast and it’s reliable,” said Cox. He added Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada using it province-wide.

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