PENTICTON - The recent graffiti epidemic was just one of the topics Penticton RCMP's top cop spoke about during the Regional District board meeting Jan. 22.
Penticton RCMP Superintendent Kevin Hewco discussed the RCMP’s annual performance plan with regional directors, a means by which each municipality is able to identify their own exclusive policing needs, and have police reports tailored to reflect those needs. He encouraged each municipality to make their own special concerns about policing known to the RCMP so those specialized needs could be monitored.
Hewco said the Penticton RCMP detachment was looking for more auxiliary constables in order to have more personnel available for special events in all the regional district communities, but raised a cautionary note over the future of the auxiliary constable program following the recent shooting of an RCMP auxiliary officer in Alberta.
“Years ago, you recall, auxiliaries were armed in this province. For a variety of reasons, that changed, so I’m not sure with that recent development where our auxiliary program is going,” he said.
Hewco briefly discussed the issue of 24 hour policing with the board, noting it was an issue for several municipalities.
“The bad guys know what we work. We try to juggle our shifts around, etc., but we get counter-surveilled. It happens. We get bad guys driving by the cop shop, they know every unmarked vehicle, they know every plate number on it, so they’re watching for us, too. It becomes a cat and mouse game,” Hewco said.
Hewco said one of the department’s best tools was Crime Stoppers and confidential sources of information that are paid.
The three rural electoral areas surrounding Penticton voiced similar appeals to have their crime statistics “broken out” of the Penticton statistics, as they are currently presented. Hewco promised to look into the possibility for future reports.
Area “D” Director Tom Siddon voiced concern communities outside Penticton had lost their community policing through restructuring. He said programs like Crime Stoppers did little for communities in Area “D,” adding those communities had also lost their Citizens on Patrol programs.
“Patrol cars seen in the community do a lot,” Siddon said. Hewco agreed. “Visibility is our constant challenge."
Siddon also felt events like Boonstock in Penticton tended to distort statistics in the rural areas when lumped together.
Penticton Director Judy Sentes asked Hewco if other municipalities were experiencing escalating proportions of graffiti vandalism, noting the recent issue in Penticton.
“Ours is just reaching a level of such anxiety, maybe there is an opportunity for everybody to try to come together, looking for a successful strategy,” she said.
“To answer your question, I have not been apprised of it in the other neighbouring communities,” Hewco answered. “It’s very frustrating to business owners, it’s frustrating for us, it’s not being treated very seriously in court, and I’m not saying that’s right or wrong."
“It’s often dealt with by restorative justice, which is quite successful, but assigning resources to investigate it can be complicated. We’ve got a database so we are collecting examples of graffiti, then we are using our intelligence resources to pair them up and identify the suspects. It’s time consuming, so is the clean up. And, of course, every time you snag one, two more come along.”
“It’s a problem and it’s one I don’t really have a solution for, but I also harken back to parents. You know your kids have spray paint. Ask them why they have spray paint.”
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