Jonathan McCormick – writer for 24/ 7

Dumb hicks! So think criminals who head for British Columbia’s boonies, counting on goodies to fence.

Criminals often target rural communities thinking ruralists leave their doors unlocked, recreational equipment readily available and exhibit lax property security behaviours.
Not so in British Columbia’s hinterland.

The RCMP’s British Columbia Rural Crime Watch program is designed to reduce the incidence of crime in rural and small municipality areas. Members are those with a vested interest in the rural community: ranchers, business owners, house and acreage owners, resort owners and transplanted urbanites. Their active involvement with crime prevention techniques improves their security and quality of life.

“Think of a blanket or a shroud that offers protection or, in this case, prevention, and you understand the concept of the Rural Crime Watch crime prevention program”, says retired Livestock Division’s Cpl. Paul Robinson.

Current Livestock Division Co-ordinator Ralph Overby says, “Rural Crime Watch is a cooperative community effort aimed at reducing crime in rural British Columbia. It is based on the observation that crime is least likely to occur in a community where people are alert to the potential for crime and willing to lookout for each other and work closely with their police force.”
British Columbia’s Rural Crime Watch Association’s objectives are:

1. To reduce the opportunity for crime to persons and property by improving and implementing security practices in homes, outbuildings, vehicles and machinery. Such practices include property identification conducted by the RCMP, Rural Crime Watch sign-age, and vigilant observation of neighbouring properties.

2. To become familiar with educational strategies by actively participating in crime prevention awareness programs.

3. To ensure that communication flow exists between the Association members, the RCMP, and other interested parties such as the B.C. Cattlemen, Conservation Officers, Forestry, B.C. Wildlife Federation Wilderness Watch and various commercial enterprises.

4. To provide a telecomputer fan-out system that provides mass communication by RCMP phone to all members.

RCW members display a yellow and black RCW sign on their property at the roadside to notify would be thieves that this property owner is aware and has taken precautionary measures to safeguard his/her property and possessions. “Even if we added 20 additional members to our detachment, 72,000 square kilometres is just too vast an area to cover as effectively as we would like. RCW is perfect for our area. Our statistics and those of other detachments prove the program’s success”, says 100 Mile House’s RCMP detachment commander.

The computer fan-out system is the heart of RCW. The computer houses members’ phone numbers. When a crime occurs, the investigating member records a message explaining what s/he is looking for. “This is Cst. John Grierson of the 100 Mile RCMP detachment. I am seeking your assistance in locating a 2003 Blue Honda Accord, License Number xxx xxx, last seen in the vicinity of the Interlakes area. If you have seen this vehicle or can offer any information regarding its whereabouts, please contact me at the detachment at 395-2456.” The computer then calls everyone on the list and provides the information when the phone is answered or it will leave the message on a machine. If it gets neither, then it goes on to the next numbers and comes back to the unanswered number at the end of the sequence.

An excellent example of the system’s efficiency and precision police work occurred recently in 100 Mile House. Two separate incidents utilized the RCW fan-out system.

A suspect stole a pick-up from a 100 Mile restaurant parking lot. The theft was noticed almost immediately by the owner who called 911. The RCMP implemented the fan-out as they proceeded to corral the suspect. The latter headed for the bush trails with the Mounties in pursuit in their 4×4’s. With the net tightening, the suspect bailed, headed in to the bush with members and dogs close behind.

In a separate incident, a member stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation. The member immediately identified the driver as being wanted on a Canada Wide warrant. The suspect picked up on the identification and took off. The member called in his pursuit as well as his fan-out. The Mounties boxed the suspected in and laded the spike belt. The suspect bailed and headed for the bush with members and dogs close behind. The suspect ran through swamp, discarding his jacket and shirt thinking he wouldn’t be identified, only to emerge from the bush into the cuffs of two waiting Mounties.

Criminals think they can escape in rural B.C. because of the remoteness, the many trails, access roads etc. Not so. The Mounties’ move against the above criminals was choreographed. There isn’t a better term: leadership, team work, speed, precision, accuracy and timing, made possible, in part, by RCW members. Immediately after the theft notification and warrant suspect identification, 650 citizens were keeping their eyes and ears open for the thieves.

School district bus drivers, logging, lumber and log home building company employees are members, each with their own fan-out system. Bus drivers receive the message from their dispatcher and share the information with students who scan the road looking for the suspect, vehicle etc.

Too often folks think they can handle crime prevention alone, but this is not possible in today’s social climate. RCW believes community members need to work together as a team to send the message to the bad guys that committing their crimes in rural B.C. will ensure being caught.

Contact McCormick at www.bcinternet.net/jm

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