A new block watch program organized by the Powell River RCMP is seeking volunteers to assist in monitoring suspicious activity in local neighbourhoods.
RCMP constable Paula Perry, who is organizing the program, said block watch groups are based on a commitment between the local detachment and community members to “build safer neighbourhoods.”
Participating community members are first invited to register their interest with Perry. For each participating block, Perry appoints a captain, who acts as a liaison between Perry and the block residents.
“I will train the captain, and then the captain will go through the neighbourhood to determine who wants to participate,” explained Perry. “We’ll have a map of all the participating blocks and all the households that are participating.”
The block captain then organizes a meeting with participants, and explains what participation in the program entails. The responsibilities are mostly to do with keeping an eye on properties, and ensuring that any suspicious activities are reported to the police, according to Perry.
“At the same time, we will fan out safety tips,” she added, “so community members will be informed of how to keep their properties safer and how to prevent crime in the first place.”
Preventative measures include making sure windows, doors and vehicles are locked by 9 pm, as well as ensuring all valuables are hidden from sight.
Block watch members will also receive a window sticker, indicating their participation in the program. According to Perry, that signifier alone can help dissuade criminals from targeting properties.
“This program isn’t about members taking on our job,” stressed Perry. “It’s about the community being aware and concerned about their neighbourhoods, and reporting activity to the police.”
The program is being launched primarily in response to a recent spike in property crime in the city. However, Perry said it also reflects a broader shift in how the RCMP conducts its work.
“Policing has shifted from reactive to community-based policing,” she said, “where the RCMP especially is pushing better relationships between the police and the community. We really want to get the community more involved.”
One resident who is already signed up as a captain is Jenn Gaiger, who said she wanted to participate in the program after reading reports of suspicious activity over social media.
“I’m the neighbourhood pit bull; if you’re in my area and I see you and you’re not supposed to be here, you’re going to be spoken to,” said Gaiger. “I’ve always done a loosey-goosey block watch anyway.”
“A lot of people think they’re bothering the police by calling, but they really should call,” she added. “Block watch is going to be a really good go-between for people who might be a little bit shy about passing on information to the police.”
Perry will be collecting the names of interested residents at Powell River Farmers’ Market in Paradise Valley on Sunday, June 9, and Sunday, June 16.
“I already have five people who are interested in being captains,” said Perry. “The goal is to have 50 per cent participation for each block.”