Sandspit concerned about lack of police presence

  • Oct. 2, 2009 10:00 a.m.

by Heather Ramsay-Drinking, drug use and speeding are rampant issues in Sandspit, say some residents, and they’re hoping it doesn’t take someone getting killed before police offer a better presence in the community. RCMP Sergeant Rob Knapton made his second visit to a Moresby Island Management Committee meeting on Sept. 24 and heard residents’ concerns. “We do have a lot of mental health issues, there is a lot of domestic violence. Someone is going to get killed before it gets better,” said resident Laurie Chisholm. She worries about people driving unlicensed vehicles up and down the beach while under the influence of alcohol, not to mention the licensed ones on the road. “As soon as the last ferry comes, you wouldn’t believe it. Everyone is high and drunk and starts tearing up and down the road,” she said. People raised concerns that the police aren’t showing up when local people call. One serious incident involved a call to RCMP dispatch, where the message wasn’t passed along. “People need to be confident that if they do make the call something will happen,” said Moresby Island Management Committee’s Gwaii Trust rep Warren Foster. Sgt. Knapton acknowledged, without getting into specifics, that something like that occurred with the call centre and that the break in communication needs to be dealt with. “I know a serious matter happened here and we didn’t receive the call about it. It’s not acceptable, especially in a situation where what developed did,” he said. Another committee member, Robert Chisholm, said police are not showing up on evenings where special liquor licences have been issued, like at dances. “When something happens, [the dance organizer] does not have hired goons. If they can’t physically control these people.” he said. He said that citizens might turn to vigilante justice if serious incidents occur or if their children get hurt. Mr. Chisholm also didn’t understand why getting a special liquor licence involves giving the RCMP two-weeks notice before the event, if there was not going to be any police presence. “We need to know if we call, someone is going to show up,” he added. Sgt. Knapton said he sent officers to the Logger Sports Day dance, but clarified that getting a liquor licence does not indicate a commitment from the police to attend. He also pointed out the RCMP can’t respond to every call. “It’s not a good use of police funds,” he said. Between July 1 and Sept. 15, RCMP were in Sandspit 38 times, Sgt. Knapton said, adding that he is happy with the efforts of the detachment to get over to Moresby Island. Sgt. Knapton also discussed the number of officers he has (it’s a seven member detachment, but six positions are filled) and why the Sandpit-based position is vacant. He said RCMP have been instructed province-wide to maintain vacancies due to the economic downturn. Even if the Sandspit position were filled, (and it is under review along with other remote, single officer units) the officer would still work out of Queen Charlotte and would not be stationed alone in the community due to police safety policies. Getting the community more involved in some levels of police matters is crucial, he said. “I’d like to see the community start to mobilize and assist us by being our eyes and ears,” he said. He responded to Ms Chisholm’s suggestion that a Citizens on Patrol program would be valuable, by noting that Bob Ells was asked to develop the program when he was last at MIMC in April. “To date we haven’t heard of any one interested in COPS,” he said. He also noted that people were concerned about speeding in school zones the last time he was in Sandspit and he put some effort into borrowing a speed board for the community. He contacted the head of the Parent Advisory Committee about the board and later Travis Glasman, but he said the thing sat in his office for two and a half months until he finally sent it back. Mr. Foster said he was surprised the RCMP didn’t contact the community office, as the discussion in April had taken place with members of MIMC. “We have staff to receive messages and forward those things,” he said. Sgt. Knapton took note of this and agreed to try again with the speed board. Ms Chisholm rounded out the discussion by saying that things like bike rodeos for kids and lessons on bike safety are important too. “Just the presence of police is important, otherwise a whole group of kids are alienated from the police,” she said. “We need to come up with something for the safety of everyone.”

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