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Visibility among the big concerns for policing plan
Top cop looks for priorities from city council

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013

RCMP Staff Sgt. Colin White called on city council this week to come up with some policing priorities for his force's annual community policing plan for the coming fiscal year, and by many accounts police visibility - particularly downtown - remains a concern.

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Some elected officials and residents say they would like Yellowknife RCMP to increase its presence in the downtown core, including more foot patrols, in response to a call for comments by Mayor Mark Heyck following a request by the Mounties for city council to set policing priorities. - NNSL file photo

In an effort to relay the information about the city to the public, Mayor Mark Heyck put a Facebook status out to his followers Tuesday seeking ideas. Of the first 18 responses he received, at least 13 alluded to the need for more of a visible police presence downtown.

"I think the RCMP presence/perception in the community is not what it used to be and suggest that more community involvement is necessary," stated one Facebook post.

In another response, a resident noted the need for "an increased presence in the downtown core" and said she has seen a near stabbing, a man defecating on the side of the road and "multiple drunks" in the past.

White set a deadline for council to have two or three policing priorities sent to the force by Feb. 8 and said ideas could be anything as long as they are "realistic, achievable and measurable."

Last year the city asked the police to focus on visibility, increase restorative justice referrals, focus on alcohol and drug use and reduce domestic violence with increases in victim services referrals.

"If it was like last year where we were asked to increase the number of victim services referrals, as an example, then I need to know how many we had done this year and how many we had done last year so I can determine if there is an increase," he said.

White said the mayor and council are among a number of client groups, including the territorial and federal government, who he is consulting to develop an annual overall community policing plan with a handful of priorities.

According to some councillors, RCMP visibility, especially downtown, remains among the biggest problems.

"One thing that isn't even arguable anymore is (the RCMP) have lost presence and that was fundamental when I was growing up in that they were ever present, whether that be on foot or in vehicles," said city councillor Cory Vanthuyne, who sat on the police advisory committee last term.

Vanthuyne said the RCMP over time has faced "very high expectations" as it relates to public safety but over time seems to have had less of a visibility because of office duties, paperwork and court duties. He would like to continue finding ways to best utilize Yellowknife detachment officers on the ground.

Coun. Adrian Bell, who is now the council representative on the police advisory committee, said council has to come together with one priority for the RCMP. He said there is a sense in town that public safety is lacking and that council needs to have more clarity on such items as how resource dollars and man-hours are being spent as well as neighbourhood crime levels.

"One of the things I am pushing for is having better information of crime in the downtown core," he said.

"That is being tracked and I would like to see it measured consistently and to see if we are making progress. When we do things right, we need to be able to look back and say this is why it worked out this way."

Coun. Linda Bussey would like to see the RCMP have an involvement with the city social issues committee that she chairs and which has yet to meet.

She is also the alternate to Bell on the police advisory committee and her husband Eric also sits on the committee.

"I really think one of the priorities should be foot patrols everywhere," she said. "We also need to know what is working and what can we build on. I think the city is in a lot of partnerships and a lot of advisory roles in many different ways and (we need to) develop those partnerships, including with the RCMP."

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