A Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon held March 18 saw guest speaker Terrace RCMP detachment commander Inspector Dana Hart highlight the importance of the community’s involvement with policing.
“In the first article I did back when I first got here I said that I firmly believe the police service is only as good as the community who is willing to participate and help the police,” said Hart. “The RCMP is only as committed as the community is.”
Despite the fact that the crime rate has remained the same over the years since he arrived isn’t the fault of police, but rather that crime evolves from “outside influences,” said the inspector.
Crime reduction involves police visibility within the community and working together with residents and business owners, doctors who provide legal documentation in mental health situations, Mills Memorial Hospital, the Ksan Society’s various shelters and programs, the City of Terrace and other community groups, he said.
Hart spoke to efforts to reduce property crimes in terms of theft, as well as domestic violence, both priorities, and, in the case of property crime, particularly meaningful to the owners of retail outlets present at the chamber luncheon.
“We are responsible to keep the complainant or victim up to date, and if we have not done that on a regular basis I will remind my officers,” said Hart. “I strongly encourage people to follow up with Crown counsel [prosecutors],” he also said when asked about business owners helping crack down on repeat thieves.
One element where working together is necessary is related to the preventative measures that the community can make to ensure that history does not repeat itself in terms of aboriginal and other women going missing on northern highways one of which, Hwy16, is referred to as the Highway of Tears, he said afterward.
Hart said the Terrace detachment looks to E-PANA, the RCMP task force created to solve the cases of missing and murdered women to take the lead on these issues.
“We have a missing women’s task force, Project E-PANA, they are really the lead and they are familiar with all the investigation, they have been following up and have the ability to follow up right across the province, nationally and internationally. They are the lead agency for that.”
But RCMP budget cuts in the last several years have reduced the number of officers assigned to the task force.
Hart did say that within the detachment here, a report of a missing person is a priority and gets the full attention of officers here.
“We have a program where we have signs on the highway for no hitchhiking, and our highway patrol members, if they see somebody hitchhiking they will pull over and talk to them and see if they will arrange some other way. We had packages for a while that we were handing out, educational packages about the dangers of hitchhiking and the alternatives,” he added.
“As far as the preventive side, I really want to emphasize community participation, communities to get involved help in arranging transportation for instance, and I know the First Nations up in the Nass Valley have buses and do regular trips back and forth.”
In terms of helping at-risk women seen alone on the streets, Hart said officers are told to make contact, and then the next step is help through agencies such as the Ksan House Society which has a women’s shelter and other shelters.
Hart spoke of the budget required for policing. Because Terrace’s population is between 5,000 and 15,000 city taxpayers pay 70 per cent of policing costs which works out to $2,981,195.
Communities under 5,000 are entirely supported by the provincial government.
There’s a complement of 36 officers at the detachment, more when specialized positions such as the regional traffic services section is counted.
The force recently lost one forensic identification officer, a specialized position which Hart said will be missed.
The detachment includes a First Nations Community Constable, which is part of services “to overcome issues for the past and make sure First Nations needs are being met,” said Hart.
There are also two constables on the crime reduction unit keeping track of “prolific offenders that we have identified in our community,” he added.
“Our call volume is high, we are a busy detachment,” said Hart, adding that staffing has not been an issue as the Terrace area has become more widely regarded as attractive in recent years.
The detachment also employs 16 civilians, including office workers, guards in its cell area and two people working in the victim services section.