Ponoka Citizens on Patrol Society (COPS) are volunteers working to make streets in Ponoka a safer place at night. The organization is a Community Policing group that works In partnership with the Ponoka RCMP.
The program started in November 2006 with their first patrol year being 2007.
President of the group Charmaine Enns thinks that having a group of volunteers out on the street patrolling helps to prevent or deter mischief in the town. Currently they have 25 active volunteers and are always looking for more to help out.
“I believe COPS has proven to be beneficial to our town by virtue of the number of offenders which COPS brought to the attention of the police during our first year,” said Enns. “I also believe it is important for members within our community to play a role in preventing and deterring crimes in our town.”
Ponoka RCMP Sgt. Glenn Demaere thinks that the program is very important to Ponoka. He notes that in the past the RCMP had become their own worst enemy as they had separated themselves from the community with their resources. He thinks that this was unfortunately a terrible step backwards because traditionally police had evolved within grassroots organizations. He says that the police have realized that the community is needed.
“Anytime the community takes an active interest in its security and well-being it helps to improve the efforts of anyone involved including the police and residents,” said Demaere.
“The function of the police has always been traditionally tied to the community and the more the community gets involved with police the more effective the policing becomes.
This is not just with policing volunteers but with any volunteers, the interest and vitality of volunteers helps the living conditions of a community.”
COPS do not have direct contact with any offender, The volunteers monitor and report their observations via cell phone to the RCMP. They patrol in pairs and in a vehicle from a distance.
In their first year they assisted the RCMP with numerous incidents by being extra eyes and ears on the streets. They witnessed a hit and run driver who was charged with impaired driving and hit and run charges. Intoxicated persons were taken off the street when volunteers witnessed them causing disturbances and witnessed and reported vandalism and other suspicious activity.
Enns believes sometimes witnessing a crime is about being in the right place at the right time.
“It could simply be a matter of timing, like driving down a back alley just when a garage is about to be broken into and the would-be thieves decide that they won’t chance it since someone is in the area,” she said.
The non-profit society runs on volunteers and community support. Being a volunteer for COPS is fun, safe and a rewarding way to give something back to your community. Being a volunteer requires a minimum two evenings a month, one for a monthly meeting and at least one for a patrol.
Their main goals, according to Enns, are crime prevention and helping to make our community safer by acting as extra eyes and ears for the local police and the Town of Ponoka.
COPS looks to assist the RCMP, they are looking to conduct more training sessions and a community information session. Enns thinks that the program is a great addition to supporting the RCMP.
“COPS was not designed to replace the RCMP but to allow the police to be able to direct their focus to other areas of potential crime. As we know, the RCMP cannot be everywhere at once,” said Enns. “Do we need more RCMP officers…every highway, town and city needs more RCMP officers and as our populations increase, so does the need for more officers.”
As the summer approaches they will become more visible appearing at the Emergency Service Day in May, the Ponoka Stampede, the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce Trade Fair and hope to maintain more patrols on the streets of Ponoka.
If you would like more information on COPS you can contact the Ponoka RCMP 783-4472.