KAMLOOPS - Donning a red shirt and cap, armed with a first aid kit, Alexis Proulx and Jon George begin to make their way through downtown Kamloops, greeting nearly everyone they pass along the way.
“Hey you guys got needles and stuff?” one man on Victoria Street asks the pair.
“No, sorry. ASK Wellness at Crossroads does,” Proulx responds.
Proulx and George are members of the Customer Care and Patrol team in downtown Kamloops, part of the neighbourhood’s business improvement association.
They don’t have things like harm reduction supplies on them, but they take pride in helping people get to where they need to be, or answer any questions they have, whether it's simply directions or a more complex question like where to find needles.
Both are interested in a career in law enforcement. For Proulx, she’s interested in B.C. Sheriffs or Conservation, while George is already volunteering with the RCMP and wants a career with the national force, or a municipal force.
Every morning, two members of the patrol team start their day by walking through downtown Kamloops, seeing if anyone is sleeping in the doorways of businesses.
“We’ll wake them up and kind of say ‘hey, businesses are starting to open,’ and then point them to different resources they can access, tell them where breakfast is that day,” Proulx says. “That usually takes a little bit. We’ll do Victoria Street, Lansdowne, Seymour, and then we’ll head into some alleyways just to look for any safety concerns or hazards and either deal with it or report them.”
Any situation that goes beyond their scope will be reported by the team to law enforcement.
While they’re checking the streets, the team will pick up things like used needles and drug cooking spoons. On my hour-long walk with them through the back alleys and main streets of downtown, the pair found one used naloxone needle and two cooking spoons.
“While were doing the patrol one person will normally have a backpack and the other can (pick up),” George says.
Team members themselves are armed with naloxone and a first aid kit in case of emergencies on their patrol. Every member of the Customer Care and Patrol team has their level one first aid, and has been trained to administer naloxone. It’s a potentially life-saving drug which can be used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
“We’ve got radios, a first aid kit, we’ve got trifold notebooks that we keep detailed notes in,” Proulx says.
The team also tackles profane graffiti on city property.
But they don’t just focus on reactive measures, Proulx and George say, the team puts an emphasis on proactive tools put in place to deter criminal activity, graffiti and littering in the downtown core.
A crime prevention package was put together by the team for business owners, detailing proactive measures that can limit the criminal activity happening to their business.
Another part of their job is making downtown Kamloops more livelier.
The Customer Care and Patrol team organizes events and programs like the cigarette butt recycling program, the visitor information centre during the summer, and place management, which is when the team puts out life-size versions of classic games like Jenga. That can encourage people who have been hanging around in the same area for a long time to move along while others play.
The team also completes bike patrols, and heads down to events like Music in the Park to help direct people if they need it.
Now that summer is around the corner, you’ll likely see more of the red uniforms when you’re downtown. For George, wearing the uniform and being able to help people is something he’s proud of.
“We tell people what we do, like ‘Oh I’m part of the (Customer Care and Patrol) team, I’m a downtown Kamloops ambassador’ and so many people - they feel so much pride,” George says. “I almost feel bad for going on too long about what I do, so it’s nice to have that sort of pride in your job.”
It’s something that Proulx and George will take into their law enforcement careers, along with a number of other skills they’ve learned with the team, including how to de-escalate a situation if a business owner or resident is unhappy.
“I think that it’s all about listening and making sure that they’ve had a chance to say their piece. A lot of people, once they’ve said their piece, I find that they calm down. I’ve learned to listen quite a bit more. If you talk to my husband he won’t think that’s true,” Proulx laughs.
One thing they both value in this job is communication, and they feel it will help them become not only better law enforcement officials, but better people.
George says everyone they come across in this job is a person, and getting to interact with people from all walks of life on a daily basis allows him to empathize and understand people more.
"We have to use our words and our relationships to our advantage. We’re not police, we don’t have tools that police use, so we have to rely very heavily on just conversation."
For more information about the Customer Care and Patrol Team and their programs, go here.
The team also responds for needle pickups in the downtown core. To report an improperly discarded needle, you can call ASK Wellness at 778-257-1292 and they will direct the downtown team if it's in their jurisdiction.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.
We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.