It’s taken some time, but the impact of Ponoka’s Citizens On Patrol (COP) program is being felt both as a crime deterrent and in helping solve crimes in the community.
Kelly Budd, local COP president, and Ponoka RCMP Cst. Jennifer Wells, police COP liaison officer, are pleased with what the program has been able to accomplish over the past four years since it was re-established in Ponoka.
However, both also acknowledged that the program remains somewhat invisible among residents and could still use more help.
“It was lucky that when I was assigned to Ponoka about 4.5 years ago that I just happened to previously be the COP president of a very successful program in Drayton Valley,” Wells said.
“While the program had been disbanded for a while here, we were able to soon start with a small group and began to spread the word every chance we got throughout the community.”
That meant getting victim services to get the word to people and other officers mentioning the program when they could. Quite often the people were surprised the program was back in Ponoka.
“Now, we have a really dedicated bunch of people that really do catch a lot of stuff,” said Wells.
“They are able to drive around and keep an eye out, then text or call the police when they witness something, so that’s nice to have that backing and support.”
She added it sometimes gives the police a leg up on a quicker response, which can lead to catching those responsible faster.
One thing that both women stated isn’t a huge help are those that proceed to use social media to complain about the lack of a police presence or their response.
“When people post complaints on Facebook, we let them know the COP program is here and ask them if they want to be a part of helping make a difference,” Budd said, adding that just because people don’t notice them driving around doesn’t mean the program isn’t having an impact.
“We would like to see more people step up.”
Wells explained the more support the COP gets, the more it shows people they are standing up for their community.
“Just like the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ the entire community needs to be a part of the solution,” said Wells.
That can include joining the COP or supporting it, or simply making sure car doors are locked, making things more difficult for potential thieves and promptly reporting all incidents and suspicious vehicles or people.
Currently, pairs of volunteers conduct patrols mostly on weekends, but both women would like to have enough to patrol at other times.
Wells explained there is no peak time for when criminal activity occurs, so being able to have shifts at any time of day or night would definitely be a bonus.
“Having people that could drive around on a weekday afternoon or the early evening would be great. Imagine what could be done with a larger group?”
Budd added that volunteers are asked for three to fours hours of patrols per month along with a monthly meeting and possibly attending the annual conference, which expenses are paid for.
The group also has recently started a youth program, which Wells said is great for showing what officers do and that they care about their community and being part of the solution.
To apply, all that is needed is a criminal record check and a driver’s licence abstract.
Applications or more information is available by dropping by the Ponoka RCMP detachment during regular business hours or contacting Budd at 403-704-3194.