One of Penticton’s biggest festivals of the year is now in the books and the local RCMP’s detachment commander said it went smoothly for his members.
Supt. Ted De Jager said in recent years the detachment has adjusted how many members it has on duty during the Penticton Peach Festival, which ran from Aug. 7 to 11 in various locations around the city. He noted that they’ve been able to reduce their numbers slightly since crime is not usually a significant factor at the festival.
“(We had) no problems with Peachfest and we’ve noticed that trend for quite some time, even three years ago we would put a lot of members on. Last summer, we changed it to have members just on-call, and we did have extra members on overtime and doing patrols, but we changed it so that more were on call,” said De Jager. “It’s a lot less expensive and more enjoyable for the members since they’re not sitting here twiddling their thumbs. This year, we reduced the amount of overtime members, although we did have a full watch on and overtime members for patrols. But very little issues, just the typical stuff like people having a little too much to drink in some cases.
“For the most part, it was a great weekend and the members had a lot of fun talking to people and going around. Most people were generally very well behaved.”
He added that this was also the case for the B.C. Day long weekend, which was Aug. 3 to 5, in that they had very little crime activity as compared to years prior.
“Typically the crime is alcohol-related on long weekends. So one of our priorities is traffic safety, so our traffic members have been out in force,” said De Jager.
De Jager said the three members of the detachment’s Street Enforcement Unit have been busy behind the scenes, targeting drug dealers and their suppliers to remove the amount of illicit drugs on city streets. He said the team has been quite successful in just the one month they’ve been in operation.
“Some of their work gets done in the shadows so you don’t see them until the actual warrant gets signed. Then it’s away they go to do the arrests. And sometimes those arrests result in the seizure of big quantities of drugs and lots of people going to jail,” said De Jager. “And sometimes, they’re more about intelligence, because that’s the nature of policing. Sometimes we are more effective than others in that regard. To date, they’ve been doing a lot of good work and getting lots of good information and drugs off the street.”
While he said crime reporting groups on social media and in apps are a great tool for residents, these are not actively monitored by RCMP unless it is for an investigation, so reporting all crimes to the detachment directly is still the most effective way to get help. De Jager said he is very in favour of community groups like Block Watch, that aim to protect their neighbourhood from crime activity, but again, any crimes, especially ongoing ones, should be directly reported to the RCMP.
There is also no news yet about when De Jager will be making the move to his new position as detachment commander of service delivery at the RCMP headquarters located in Surrey. He explained this role would look at resource problems such as the shortage of officers in Oliver, and then try to determine the best solution. In Oliver’s case, the solution is complicated because the two options are to increase funding or reallocate resources, and from the RCMP perspective they wouldn’t know where to reallocate from.
“One issue is it’s hard to find the officers to pull out of a detachment. The other thing is that we look at things like finding efficiencies, so if we create one in a certain area, then that might allow us to re-deploy,” said De Jager. “We’re not there yet to bring those two members to Oliver, although I’m sure the mayor and council would want to see that. And we’d like to see it too because they are a busy detachment, just like us.”
De Jager said it is not guaranteed that he will remain at the Penticton detachment until a replacement is found, but the community will have its say over who will take on the role since a board assembled by the city that includes the RDOS will be able to select the successful candidate from a shortlist of applicants the RCMP will provide.
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