RCMP beefs up Koocanusa presence

Cpl. Don Erichsen is in charge of Lake Koocanusa operations for the May Long weekend, and he has added another tool to his belt.

  • May. 11, 2012 7:00 p.m.

Cpl. Don Erichsen is in charge of Lake Koocanusa operations for the May Long weekend, and he has added another tool to his belt.

The B.C. Sheriffs Service will be tagging along for the weekend to provide cells and transportation for anyone taken into custody over the weekend. Erichsen said it’s a significant step towards improved safety for the residents, campers and families that use the area each May holiday weekend.

“Our ultimate goal is that their presence goes unneeded,” Erichsen said.

The Sheriffs will allow law enforcement to stay on the job longer. When an officer takes a person into custody in the Koocanusa area, Erichsen said they then must drive them back to either Cranbrook or Sparwood and complete paperwork before they return. That means that officer is taken off the streets for up to three hours.

With the B.C. Sheriffs involved, the officers will be able to deliver that person to an undisclosed location in Baynes Lake, and the sheriffs will look after transportation and lock up.

“Having the sheriffs involved has always been the central jewel,” Erichsen said.

The sheriffs have previously not been involved because of funding issues, but Erichsen has now been able to secure the money needed to bring them on board.

“I’m very excited about this,” he said.

The sheriffs have been eager to participate in May Long activities to increase the overall safety of Lake Koocanusa for all users.

There have been serious incidents of violence and disturbing firearms use in the past over the May Long weekend. Last year, there was a stabbing and unsafe use of firearms such as skeet shooting on the river banks. Those incidents lead to increased complaints from local residents, and in turn, plans for a boosted police presence for this year.

“It just lead to an increased risk to everyone who was using the area,” Erichsen said.

The problem has been escalating in recent years as the area becomes the go-to spot for May Long campers.

“The volume of campers has far exceeded the amount of campers it is set up for,” Erichsen said. “I just know that our calls for services in the area have gone way up.”

Responding over the weekend will be both the Cranbrook and Elk Valley RCMP detachments, East Kootenay Traffic Services, Forestry Lands and Natural Resources Management, the B.C. Sheriffs, conservation officers and more.

Erichsen hopes the addition of the sheriffs and the coalition of law enforcement will make the weekend fun and safe for everyone there.

“Everybody is there to enjoy their weekend and have fun.”