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Top cop has new duties in mind for Crime Stoppers boss

Penticton RCMP Supt. Kevin Hewco speaks privately with Mayor Garry Litke on Thursday following a closed-door meeting about the future of the Crime Stoppers program.  - Joe Fries/Western News
Penticton RCMP Supt. Kevin Hewco speaks privately with Mayor Garry Litke on Thursday following a closed-door meeting about the future of the Crime Stoppers program.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Despite a warning against doing so, Mounties appear set to hand additional duties to the region’s top civilian Crime Stopper as part of a restructuring at the Penticton detachment.

Supt. Kevin Hewco confirmed Thursday he wants Crime Stoppers co-ordinator Al Sismey to take on new responsibilities for regional community policing. Those responsibilities would include some of the work currently handled by Penticton community policing co-ordinator Jim Porteous, whose position will be terminated at the end of April as a cost-saving measure.

“I felt that we could deliver the same programs at lesser cost by combining one position,” Hewco said after a 30-minute closed-door meeting with the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Crime Stoppers, which solicits anonymous tips for police, is a regional program funded by the RDOS at a cost of $65,000 a year.

Hewco said he completed an “efficiency and effectiveness review” in the region following his arrival six months ago and believes Sismey, with the support of an RCMP officer, could handle other outreach work, such as recruitment of auxiliary officers and citizens on patrol.

“So for the same money that we’re funding this employee here, I believe that we can provide an enhanced service to the region,” he said.

Sismey, who couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, warned the RDOS board two weeks ago that combining Crime Stoppers with a policing program would harm its effectiveness.

“If we’re an arm of the police our information isn’t as well-protected and we couldn’t stand up in front of anybody and say, ‘You can call us anonymously.’” he said.

Sismey also said his Crime Stoppers branch received 376 tips last year, making it a full-time job in combination with other duties like fundraising and community relations. Hewco said he’s seen the combined model work in other communities.

“I understand and respect the arm’s-length position of Crime Stoppers and why it has to be that way … and this will not jeopardize that,” he assured.

“I’m just trying to be a little more effective with public monies. I understand the angst that creates for people.”

Sismey’s earlier presentation to the RDOS board worried some local politicians, including Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, who was concerned about a lack of prior consultation.

Hewco “should have let us know before the fact that he was doing this. Now after the fact he’s trying to bring us up to speed — the city, Mr. Sismey, all of us — so he’s apologized for that,” Litke said Thursday.

The mayor, who spoke privately with Hewco outside RDOS headquarters, said he now has a “higher degree of comfort” with the proposed restructuring.

“That’s what (Hewco) thinks is the best way of doing things,” said Litke. “And he’s providing a cost savings, which we all like.”

Hewco said it will be up to the RDOS to approve the change: “I’m just here to tell them that I think that position can do more in your region.”

The RDOS board resumed closed-door discussion of the matter Thursday following its regular public meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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