"THIS IS NOT A SURVEILLANCE OPERATION."
KELOWNA – For the last two months local RCMP have been using specially trained volunteers to help go through hours of video surveillance footage and scout out problem areas in the city.
The Auxiliary Constable Program is a nationally supported network of citizens who help local law enforcement with various tasks like public outreach. Since August, however, Kelowna has been using some of its 55 Auxiliary Constables in a very different way.
In a report to council this week, Police Services Manager Stacey Jackson says the Auxiliary Constable Video Review Team has helped with one of the most time-intensive aspects of evidence gathering and investigation.
“One of the many tasks, of a homicide investigation, is video review,” she says. “Depending on the specifics of the crime scene, video surveillance, from surrounding businesses, for example, is gathered and reviewed, with the goal of gleaning any potential evidence or information from that video.”
Her report includes a description of the role the groups played when they were first used in early 2016 during an unspecified homicide investigation. Members were briefed by the lead investigator, given goals and specifics of what to look for as well as training and equipment.
“The contribution made by the Auxiliary Constable team was invaluable,” she says. “Since then, the Auxiliary Constable Video Review Team has been utilized several times and remain a valuable resource in this type of investigation. To date, in 2016, the video review team has committed 992 volunteer hours to this initiative.”
Members of the Auxiliary Constable Program were also chosen to fill a second role that is unique to Kelowna.
Members of program have been used by plain clothes surveillance teams and members of the Kelowna Detachment Crime Analysts Unit to help identify high crime areas in the city. They are dressed in civilian attire and drive unmarked vehicles.
“The focus of the patrols is to collect licence plate numbers, vehicle and person descriptions at, or near, the various 'hot spot' locations,” Jackson says. “This is not a surveillance operation.”
Jackson says members of the Urban Patrol have no contact with the public but information they report is compiled in a database accessible to all areas of law enforcement.
“The value of the street check cannot be overstated,” she says. “The ability of an investigator to place a specific vehicle, or person, at or near, a recent crime scene, via the street check, can often be the missing piece of the investigative puzzle. Having the Auxiliary Constable teams on the street, in this capacity, not only puts extra eyes and ears in these targeted crime areas but dramatically increases the number of street checks submitted during a shift.”
The report says local police submit an average 85 street checks per month but since the inception of the program in August the Urban Patrol Teams spent 432 hours of volunteer time to complete 327 street checks.
“The Kelowna Detachment Senior Management Team fully supports the Urban Patrol Project, they recognise value of this initiative and feel it can contribute to Kelowna Detachment’s crime reduction strategy,” Jackson says.
The federal government suspended the Auxiliary Constable Program across Canada in January of this year pending a review and are asking local governments to essentially vote on whether they want it to continue or not.
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