By Tiffany Williams
The Town of Ponoka approved that the council provide funding for 50 per cent of the policing overtime for the 2008 Ponoka Stampede up to a maximum of $10,000.
The projected cost for overtime for the RCMP is $21,000 – this is a $3,000 increase from last year. It is caused because in 2007 the Ponoka RCMP had three extra members that were supplement to the establishment and they have now been transferred putting the detachment back to regular manpower.
Information provided to council noted that of all of the uniformed members that will be dedicated to policing the stampede only about 24 per cent of their shifts will be incurred as overtime.
Chief administrative officer for the Town of Ponoka Brad Watson says there will be a prominent RCMP presence at the stampede.
“The Ponoka Stampede Association, the town of Ponoka and Ponoka County’s number one concern is the safety of those in attendance,” said Watson. “We want them to have a safe, positive and memorable experience so they will return often. I am confidant that with the extra planning that the PSA, the town and the RCMP have undertaken that this will be the case.”
Watson also said that the PSA has taken great effort and expense to hire extra security, which is new for this year.
In 2007 at the stampede several plain clothes Community Resource Unit members (CRU) from Hobbema assisted who were able to identify gang members.
Glenn Demaere said that the CRU unit will also be back this year and they were tremendously successful last year.
“Our members are topnotch but we can’t identify the gang members like the CRU members can.They can identify them by sight,” said Demaere.
The RCMP consider having the CRU members a necessity in order to better deal with the Hobbema gang-related activity that was a serious problem in 2007. It was also noted that of the 27 shifts to be worked by the CRU members only four of these shifts will be overtime.
He says that during the stampede all of the RCMP members are working hard.
“The extra costs come in because of members who are working on their days off,” said Demaere.
In 2007 the RCMP and the Town went into a similar agreement the total funding agreed on was $18,000 and the total funding used was $17,364 with reconciliation of $635. During the 2007 Stampede, June 26 to July 2, RCMP were involved in 268 incidents/investigation, which is 60 per cent higher than the average call volume during the summer. A total of 100 prisoners were lodged in cells and the typical number is 15 to 20. Of those in the cells a vast majority were directly related to the Stampede and of those 30 were identified as Aboriginal gang members from Hobbema. Gang activities were reported as the most serious problem for the RCMP. There were eight gang related incidents involving weapons and resulted in weapon-related offences.
For the 2008 Stampede the Ponoka RCMP will provide 24 hour coverage throughout with maximum members working during peak times. There will be 11 to 13 members from Ponoka as well as four plainclothes CRU members working each day.
Also working during the stampede will be several traffic services members, volunteer RCMP auxiliary constables, Victim Service Advocates and likely provincial sheriffs. They are set to maintain a strong visible presence with frequent patrols and foot patrols. They will also be out in public relation duties such as members dressed in their Red Serge with various duties, Mounted Equestrian Riders, parade and at the Tri-Service Cabin.