Policing committee outlines priorities in Sidney and North Saanich

New community committee formed by the RCMP to help with local interaction, issue identification.

For its first official business meeting, a new community-based committee working with the Sidney North Saanich RCMP outlined what it thinks the police are doing well, and where they can improve.

The RCMP formed the committee  with two information sessions in March — one in Sidney and the other in North Saanich. Corporal Erin Fraser says after talking with potential committee members, the initial plan for two groups was merged into one. Earlier this month, the committee came together with 17 members, representing a wide variety of professions and backgrounds.

Fraser said she and Constable George Phipps are the local RCMP’s liaisons to the group, which is tasked with outlining their expectations of the police in their community.

“We want this committee to take information back to their families, friends and the community,” Fraser said. “If something goes wrong, people hear about it right away. They don’t hear it as much when the police do good things.”

On that front, Fraser said the committee stated that, in general, they feel safe in their neighbourhoods and that the RCMP has a good response time, when called. They had praise for their school and First Nations interactions and willingness to be involved in restorative justice programs.

Improvements, they noted, were seen in the RCMP having more of a presence in the more rural areas of North Saanich.

“They want us to reach out more to the community,” Fraser continued. “We’re now on social media and we have summer bike patrol that are starting up.”

Perceptions about policing and the hard realities of manpower and community priorities, Fraser said, will present some challenges within the committee. She added, however, that that’s one of the reasons for the group in the first place. The sharing of information will hopefully bridge any gaps in service, Fraser said, or at least provide strong two-way communication.

The committee will meet every two months and Fraser said they are continuing to evolve.

“The group will try to identify problems in the community and what opportunities we all have to address them.”

Fraser notes solving issues can’t always be left up to the police. Where possible, she said residents and businesses can contribute to their own safety and help lead the way in crime prevention.

“We’re getting a better sense of what’s going on … and that’s being recommended to us by this committee.”