Const. Jarett Duncan goes up for the ball during a handball game at USS hosted by the Ucluelet RCMP.

Const. Jarett Duncan goes up for the ball during a handball game at USS hosted by the Ucluelet RCMP.

Community key to Ucluelet’s community policing efforts

Ucluelet’s RCMP put a unique focus on their community policing efforts.

The idea of community policing, a concept created by Sir. Robert Peel in the early 1800’s, is centred around the importance of police officers being seen as locals in uniform.

The theory is a community that feels comfortable around its police would be more inclined to speak to, and cooperate with, them.

Ucluelet’s detachment commander Sgt. Jeff Swann believes making police familiar faces in Ucluelet helps create a population more inclined to say something when they see something and this helps his crew prevent crimes before they happen through early intervention.

“When you have officers like we do here that are visible at every event, whether they’re in red surge, regular uniform or off-duty, people know who we are, they know what we do for a living, they know where we live, they know our family, they know our children and when they see us they realize were not just cops were human beings too,” he said.

“I think that lends to more people feeling comfortable with police to make the phone call…You can have a great investigator here that once a file happens can be like CSI on TV, investigate it and solve it and that’s great, but I would much rather stop the crime before it happens.”

Ukee RCMP attend community events and initiate their own to ensure familiarity, particularly among local youth.

The detachment hosted a paintball competition with Ucluelet First Nation youth on Dec. 22 and kicked up a pick up game of handball at USS last week.

Swann believes this consistent presence helps kids feel comfortable interacting with officers.

“We don’t get into this job for the accolades and the thanks but we get that when we see the youth in this town come up and interact with us and joke around with us,” he said. “We’re here to support them and guide and educate them and to me that’s what the role of a police officer should be and if we’re not doing that I think we’re failing the community. I’m so happy with the membership that we have here. Everybody is on the same page when it comes to pushing supporting and working towards that.”

Swann added that with just five officers working out of the Ucluelet detachment, locals are key players in keeping the peace.

“The eyes and ears of the community are what drives our crime rates down…The community has a huge role to play; we can’t do it ourselves,” he said.

“If people are responsible and looking out for each other and when they see something suspicious they call it in…when we work together as a community that to me is community policing, we’re all working together.”

He said the Ucluelet detachment has seen a large uptick in community engagement over the past six years and attributes the start of the surge to a crackdown on crime in 2009.

“We did a really big push for drug enforcement right when I got here, we had some very keen officers who were on it and we made a dramatic difference,” he said.

“We took a lot of drugs off the street and cleaned the street up and I think that led to a lot of credibility being put towards the Ucluelet detachment as a whole.”

This increased credibility led to a revamped Restorative Justice program and greater participation in Ucluelet’s Auxiliary Constable program, according to Swann.

The Auxiliary program is currently training five new recruits.