A Brandon city councilor is hoping to curb crime rates within his ward by introducing a crime deterrent program that would see both education and volunteer patrol components.
Riverview councilor Glen Parker announced Tuesday morning his intention to put together a program to engage East Brandon residents in what he is calling “active crime deterrence.” The initiative, currently called the Riverview Ward Patrol, will focus on teaching residents about protecting themselves against various property-related crimes such as break and enter, vandalism, vehicle theft and recreational vehicle theft.
The program will also establish a crime watch patrol using volunteers from the community. In an interview with the Westman Journal, Parker noted that the program was not about “vigilante-ism,” but organizing a group of concerned citizens who would surveil Riverview neighborhood streets and contact authorities should they encounter anything suspicious.
“Once I received some information from (Brandon Police Service) Chief (Wayne) Balcaen through a ward meeting we held this spring, I thought we should try to come up with something to try to deal with the increases in some crimes,” Parker said.
“It’s obviously not a completely new idea as a rural crime watch organization had been tried before, but I thought if we came up with a program that was owned and operated within Riverview, the citizens would take ownership and pride in it. I thought maybe we can make a difference because I knew if we did nothing, we’d get no results.”
Parker began discussing a potential program with stakeholders and acquaintances in May, but let the initiative simmer through the summer. The people he approached within the ward’s business community at that time seemed excited about it. Meanwhile, Dan Merlin, a Canadian Army Warrant Officer and former artillery platoon sergeant, volunteered to help Parker organize the initiative. Merlin’s military experience includes knowledge in conflict management after more than three decades of experience that included serving in Bosnia, Cyprus, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Although news of the program has just been released to the public, Parker hopes to attract enough volunteers to keep individual patrol commitments to one night per month as soon as possible. The patrol will begin running by early November at the latest, regardless, with the first patrollers being students from the Assiniboine Community College’s Police Studies program.
A Powerpoint presentation provided to media outlets stated the Riverview Ward Patrol would operate on a budget of about $6300 per year. Most of that money – approximately $5250 – would be used for fuel costs associated with the patrol, but the rest would cover such things as high visibility vests, high-powered lights, door-to-door educational literature, insurance and an annual volunteer event.
Administrators of the program want funding to come from concerned business owners and citizens within the ward based on a sponsorship program that would see two-year commitments from contributors.
“There are no taxpayer dollars involved in this and, in a way, we’re positioning it as a pilot project for other areas of the city,” Parker said. “It’s not a city initiative, per se. It’s an initiative of my own. It’s being put together with private funds we’ve been able to cobble together with businesses in the ward.”
Parker also noted that the Riverview Ward Patrol is not tied to his run for another term on council. Should he fail to be elected in Brandon’s 2018 municipal election, he will continue to move forward with the project, he said.
He also said the program is, in no way, a comment on the services being provided by the BPS or other emergency services.
“We know their (the BPS’s) resources are stretched, so there are some things we hope to reduce; things that fall lower on the list of importance,” Parker said.