Staff Sgt. Lorne Craig and Sgt. Will Thien attended the Mar. 14 Committee of the Whole meeting at Fernie City Hall. The sergeants attended in regard to policing priorities for Fernie and the Elk Valley.
To align with the Provincial Policing Priorities and the RCMP Commanding Officer’s Priorities, the priorities identified by the City and the local RCMP detachment will be carried over for the next three years.
Craig told Council the area identified as priorities by the Provincial Policing Priority are crime reduction, organized crime, family violence, road safety, and First Nations.
“I think for Fernie, there are issues that we could put into any of those categories – under road safety, family violence and particularly crime reduction. They are wide open to a variety of concerns or issues that you have heard from your constituents that you may wish to pass on,” said Craig to Council.
One area that Craig said will remain a priority in Fernie is crime and noise reduction and liquor enforcement in the downtown core.
“I think that has been something that has been mentioned over the years as a concern. I think that enforcement is indeed showing an effect, but it has been a little slower,” said Craig. “I think we will keep on that and keep that in check so it is enjoyable for everybody to participate downtown and create that vibrant downtown that we want to have.”
Councillors were given the opportunity to voice their concerns and priorities they would like to see added to the list. Councillor Ange Qualizza applauded the RCMP for their efforts in patrolling road safety in the school zones, and hoped they would maintain their efforts in that area. She mentioned that increased enforcement on distracted driving would be beneficial to the area.
Councillor Phil Iddon voiced his concerns with bylaw enforcement, asking for the RCMP’s help with the issue, especially regarding off-leash dogs.
“You will see a dog off-leash, the guy will say, it’s a bylaw and you can be ticketed for that, and if it comes from somebody with a stripe down their pants and sirens on the car, I think they are going to latch up the leash and pay attention to it more,” said Iddon.
“I know your priority is for the downtown core and we have registered that but I have seen it numerous times where an obvious violation of an obvious bylaw that is a concern to our community, and it’s not a priority – I don’t want to put it up at the top but we get beat up on that from our end repeatedly,” Iddon continued.
Iddon cited the concerns council has over hiring summer students to help with bylaw enforcement and the possible confrontations they will face from local residents. He said help from a more authoritative body, such as the RCMP, could potentially help ease some of the confrontation.
In response to this, Craig said if assistance with bylaw enforcement was a priority for Council and they publicized it as so, they would look into adding additional support in that area.
“From a policing point of view, if there is a bylaw officer in place in this valley or community, they have this set of responsibilities to enforce bylaws. We act as a secondary when they don’t and so that would be the evenings with the nuisance bylaws. For us to stop and give a warning to everybody with a dog off-leash, I don’t think that would bode well for policing here,” said Craig.
“We have a lot of discretion in our job. If that is a true concern for the City of Fernie and you want your police force to do that, and you are willing to put that out and say that we’ve asked our police to please do this, we can look at that.”