Crime; it affects every community, every province, anytime and anywhere. But, residents of the Lakeland are taking a stand, through the Cold Lake Citizens on Patrol Society (CLCOPS).
On Tuesday, Feb. 7, locals learned more about starting up a Citizens on Patrol (COP) group, from the president of the Alberta Citizens on Patrol Association Bev Salomons.
The session was hosted with the help of the City of Cold Lake, as a way of informing the public what is involved with the program and what they can do to help.
The idea to bring COP to Cold Lake stemmed after a Facebook group was started. The page was used to inform the public about stolen vehicles or other property crimes ongoing in the Cold Lake area.
“It was people who were trying to bring awareness to the community about what is happening out there,” said Frank Butt, chairman of CLCOPS. “It was more so just a communication thing, letting people know what is happening in their neighbourhoods, and then we realized there are programs out there that will be more of a feet on the ground.”
Butt began researching options for residents concerned about crime in their community, and came across the COP program. As of 2016, there were 71 active communities in the COP program in Alberta.
“(I started it) because of the crime rate seemingly increasing, and more so, just to try and help the community and to make it a better place for our kids,” explained Butt.
He added that the turnout of about 70 people at the info session just shows “there is a need for this, and that we are just headed in the right direction.”
Cold Lake resident Eric Thomlinson agreed, and noted he attended the meeting to learn more about what he can do as a resident to help make his community a safer place to be, how the program would run, and the areas it would cover.
The details have yet to be ironed out, something the group will discuss at their first official meeting, the date of which has yet to be determined.
However, Butt said the local COP is interested in creating smaller groups in the outlying communities such as Ardmore, Cherry Grove and Riverhurst, should there be a need.
“Cold Lake needs it, the city is expanding and crime is always going to be there,” Thomlinson explained, adding COP is just an extra set of eyes and ears for the Cold Lake RCMP.
Detachment commander S/Sgt. Jeremie Landry is supporting the initiative, and said the local RCMP force will be naming a liaison officer for the program. The officer will train the local COP members on observation techniques, what they should and should not report, and the different levels of crime. The group is responsible for any training after the first round.
Although the CLCOPS works with the RCMP in providing information about crime in the city, the initiative itself lies on the shoulders of residents. The group is required to come up with their own funding, whether it is through business donations or municipal councils, and are responsible for the recruitment of volunteers.
Both the City of Cold Lake and MD of Bonnyville have shown their support for CLCOP, and have agreed it is a step in the right direction.
Salomons and her husband are based out of Edmonton, and came to Cold Lake to fill-in the community about what a COP is, how it functions and what is expected of them. They also shared a personal story about the importance of following the rules of ACOPA, especially when out on patrols.
Several years ago, the couple drove by a local school while on patrol when they noticed a couple of teenagers on the property. After initiating a conversation, the teens asked for help, they were wet and cold and needed a ride to Edmonton.
The Salomons decided to call the RCMP. As it turns out, the two kids had broken out of a nearby treatment home, and were hiding.
Several days later, the Salomons received a call from the local detachment. The officer told them the same kids had escaped again, this time killing a couple and stealing their vehicle to drive to Edmonton in.
Henry Salomons said the story could have played out a lot differently if they had gotten out of their vehicle that night, and to remember that the rules of COP are in place for a reason: your safety.
Other details of the local initiative are to be determined, and include how they will mark vehicles on patrol, whether they will wear uniforms, how many members will be on the board, and whether patrols will go by a strict scheduling system or at random.
Residents interested in volunteering or looking for more information are encouraged to contact the group through their Facebook page or by email at [email protected].