A desire for a greater police presence in the rural areas is not something Insp. Brad Haugli is taking lightly.
He confirmed that at Wednesday’s open house meeting in Okanagan Falls hosted by Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen director Bill Schwarz.
“Do we have enough police for this area? No,” said Haugli, agreeing with the crowd of about 200 in attendance. “My vision is to have a self-sustained police unit that works in partnership with not only the City of Penticton, but also with the regional area we look after, from Summerland to the border and over to Princeton — especially for electoral areas D, E and F. A self-sustained model that will provide you with high visibility during peak periods, ultimately reduce crime and hopefully reduce the fear of crime. That is my goal, my challenge.”
Last year, at a similar open house meeting in Okanagan Falls, Haugli introduced Cpl. Martin Trudeau to the residents as the officer who is taking leadership for the rural areas. It has reverted back to a previous system where one police officer from each watch is assigned to the rural area. Haugli said on Wednesday this is a short-term fix, with more dedicated officers the real answer.
The inspector said he has been researching how to make that happen. He found on the B.C. police services website, that went back as far as 1990, there has not been an increase to the number of officers since then. One issue is the influx of wineries in the area has driven up tourism numbers, but the provincial government only looks at permanent residents when deciding on police officer ratios.
“For me to stand here and say to you 24/7 you are going to have a police officer in electoral areas D, E and F — I can’t say that, but we are working hard are trying to get that going,” said Haugli. “I’m gathering information right now to bring it to the B.C. police service attention, but I’m sure I will be arguing, fighting with a number of other rural communities in the province. I’m hopeful that in my time here we will see an increase.”
Cpl. Trudeau said the four dedicated rural RCMP members have become familiarized with the dynamics of each community, increased roadblocks to gain a more visible presence, and this summer two of the members are being trained for boat patrol. Trudeau encouraged residents to call him directly at 250-770-4725 with any concerns. He said there are many rural crimes not being relayed to RCMP.
“When you see something happening that is not right please report it. We may be the ones with the badges, but we say all of you are our deputies. You are our eyes out there, and if we become aware of it we can do something about it,” said Trudeau.