Patrolling empty streets during the pandemic presented Red Deer community policing officers with an unintended benefit.
Corp. Mike Evans said making “higher visibility patrols,” to reduce criminal break-ins while few people were in the streets actually allowed RCMP officers to make closer connections to the merchants who were still open for business.
“It was almost like we went back to our grassroots policing style,” chatting with people about happenings in their neighbourhood and their crime and safety concerns, he added.
Evans said his unit of five community policing officers is still prioritizing these close connections now that life has returned to normal.
“We are out there, sharing good practices… we’re out in the malls with tenant meetings, sharing crime prevention techniques…”
Although the team, which is housed in the downtown RCMP detachment, works with more than 40 community partners on crime prevention tips and other kinds of education, the officers spend about 60 per cent of their time dealing with young people.
The unit has, therefore, undergone a name change. Evans said it’s now called the Youth and Community Action Team to more accurately reflect its actions and priorities. “We want to let people know what we’re all about…”
The unit makes anti-drug and anti-bully and harassment presentations at schools, while officers also give mental health safety seminars to youths in group homes, community clubs etc. “We want to foster positive interactions between young people and police,” added Evans.
The unit’s officers also work with high-risk youths, as well as those who have already offended. The idea is to hold them accountable for their actions while also trying to steer them to a more positive way of life, said Evans.
This includes seeing young offenders through drug court or youth justice court.
He noted the aim of the Red Deer RCMP’s community policing unit is to focus on crime reduction and prevention through relationship building, education, early intervention and enforcement.