New Sheriff in Town

New Sheriff in Town

May 5, 2017

This week was a busy first week for our new RCMP superintendent Ted De Jager. It’s hard to believe that seven months transpired since our last superintendent retired and I admit that it did take a little longer than expected to find a good fit for our community. In the past we’ve often ended up with a retirement posting and in my opinion, these haven’t always produced new and innovative strategies to deal with combating crime.

Property crime stats are up throughout the valley and that commonality doesn’t bring comfort to Valley residents. While policing is not under the mandate or control of City council, we do pay $8.5 Million a year for the RCMP. In fact, protective services make up almost half of the $30 Million the City collects in taxes.

One of the common themes our residents voice when asked ‘what do you love about Penticton?’ is our small town feel or charm along with the many amenities and services we have.  Many also add that we are a friendly and safe community.  We see a lot of news regarding crime, but a majority of us still believe we live in a safe community. Despite this belief, we definitely have some issues, a few bad apples and our share of prolific offenders that we need to acknowledge and deal with. 

 One of the mandates for our new Superintendent is to rebuild community engagement. Superintendent De Jager is committed to reinstating a community policing committee to let people know firsthand what the RCMP is doing and allow the Superintendent to hear concerns directly from various community organizations and representatives.  Other channels for engagement include the many agencies the Police interact with in the course of their work including: mental health support services, the court system, parole officers, fire, paramedics, by-law, Interior health, BC Housing, restorative justice and other social services. Many of the triggers to bad behaviour rest with social issues such as drug addiction, mental health, and homelessness.   

To some degree, society has become accustomed to these social realities and don’t seem to have the capacity or drive to champion alternative strategies to create solutions. I suspect that some people would have a difficult time fathoming why a City should provide safe injection sites or free housing for all those on the street. The fact is, it would be cheaper to provide those services instead of reacting to crime fueled by drug addiction, drug overdoses, and people with mental health issues wandering the streets, and health issues arising from inadequate shelter. In the past we would see news stories from other, larger cities and we naively assumed it could never happen in Penticton, but these issues now exist here. We need to consider different approaches than we’ve used in the past.

Just like we have organizations like the United Way coordinating faith-based groups, non-profits and social agencies (100 homes Penticton) to deal with various social issues, we need a champion in our police force to help take back our community.  Perception of crime and the fear of crime are debilitating and unhealthy for our community. Sometimes being in political office limits your opportunity to be as vocal or direct as you would like to be, but I would like to assure everyone that council is very aware of what is happening in his community and we have certainly expressed our concerns to Superintendent De Jager. 

Our new Police Chief clearly illustrated during the selection process that he is innovative and adaptive with his strategy and is highly proactive in dealing with trends in criminal activity. He can be tough when he needs to and has a strong military background, yet he also recognized the  importance and value  of his detachment  integrating and interacting with the community. 

I’m not trying to paint the picture of a shiny white knight riding in to save the day; however we do need to see greater visibility and results from the RCMP.  We have high expectations and great confidence in Superintendent De Jager to make some serious headway with targeting prolific offenders, getting a handle on property crime, clamping down on drugs, and working with various community stakeholders.