CPS launches Eyes on Camrose
Cst. Kelly Bauer of the Camrose Police Service is rolling out a new community integrated approach to policing called Eyes on Camrose. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
Camrose Police Service is taking a new approach to crime fighting in the city.
Crime prevention and community relations officer Cst. Kelly Bauer will be rolling out a new community integrated approach to policing over the next several weeks called Eyes on Camrose.
"We need the community … we depend on the community, we want the community to be even more involved," said Bauer. "It's a community awareness initiative, we want to get the community engaged in a lot of things."
The first stage of this program is Citizens on Patrol. COP is helping serve as a major catalyst for Eyes on Camrose. Organizer Dan MacPherson was part of a COP program in Edson more than a decade ago, and recently started posting on social media about holding an organizational meeting on Feb. 15 to see if there was interest in the city to start a group in Camrose.
One of the people who saw the posting was Bauer and he contacted him immediately, to see just how serious MacPherson was about COP.
He is all-in.
"Once crime becomes closer to home … we’ve got to do something about this," said MacPherson, who is seeing more thefts in his own neighbourhood. "It's not an effort to replace the police by any means, but they need all the help they can get."
COP falls into a similar vein as Neighbourhood Watch, in which citizens patrol the community, particularly at night. The parameters of their patrol, however, are strictly controlled.
Volunteers are paired up and confined to a personal vehicle. They are not permitted to leave the vehicle or chase after a thief or someone they suspect as being involved in a crime. Their role is to blend into the background, observe and report suspicious activity. Vigilantism is strictly forbidden. They are not to become part of the story and get caught up in an incident.
MacPherson says windows are rolled down and the radio is off. They are the eyes and ears for the police as they drive the streets and alleys of their designated area.
"You're not going to get a police baton, you don't get a taser," he said.
"If anyone thinks this is going to be like SWAT or Criminal Minds, no, it's actually really boring."
While MacPherson does not have stats from his time with the Edson program, there was plenty anecdotal feedback as they were informed when the information they supplied led to the arrest of suspects.
"For the criminal element, if there is a Citizens on Patrol group in the town ... it acts as a silent deterrent, the what if? factor," said McPherson. "You can't drive a patrol car down the back alley and not be noticed. But my little car, they don't know if I'm in there just going home or what we're doing."
The goal is to have about 48 volunteers so people can be rotated through with about one shift a month and be able to handle increased patrols during high-traffic periods like Big Valley Jamboree.
There are 71 Citizens on Patrol groups in Alberta as of 2016 with another 13 communities that have expressed interest in starting the program. The program requires training and volunteers committed to taking shifts. MacPherson says it will likely be several months before they are up and rolling do to the process they have to go through to become organized as a society and ensure they have the man power they need.
The key to this specific program is that it is community led, not run by CPS.
"It's not police driven, it's more community driven and police support it," said Bauer.
This is just the first step of what he wants to accomplish with Eyes on Camrose, which will involve different groups and programs that will be unveiled over the next few months. Eyes on Camrose is not just about reporting crimes, it is also about awareness and prevention.
"Some of the things are just more initiatives that people can do at home and not make themselves an easy target," said Bauer. "So many of the crimes we see are a crime of opportunity."
He has been with CPS for 12 years after being a part of the agricultural industry in Vegreville before joining the police force. He always had an desire to help out the community in which he lived, but until he put on the blue uniform he did not quite understand the importance of the role the community plays in policing.
The penny dropped for Bauer before he moved his family to Camrose shortly after he started with CPS. He was shocked at the amount of drug activity he was seeing, especially compared to what he was used to in Vegreville. When an RCMP friend informed him that there was a drug house down the street from where he lived in Veg he was shocked.
"That's what got me realizing that I wasn't aware, that I needed to be aware and how many other people in our community don't realize that either," said Bauer. "So many of the crimes in our community get solved because somebody sees something, somebody was a witness and took the initiative to let police know and that was the piece of the puzzle we were looking for."
The organizational meeting for Camrose COP is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Camrose Regional Exhibition. For more information go to their Facebook page.