INNISFAIL - Staff Sgt. Ian Ihme says visibility is the key to good policing for Innisfail.
The newly appointed detachment commander, who was before the Town of Innisfail's council on April 10 for the first time since being promoted late last month, said visibility was “probably the number 1” policing priority Innisfailians wanted for their community.
Ihme’s pitch to council followed recent strategic planning discussions with the town’s Policing & Safe Community Committee.
“What the policing committee had done was put out a survey to the town that ran for a few weeks; just to get some feedback on policing priorities and initiatives and what people in the town wanted to see from the police,” Ihme told council. “And really one of the big themes that really stood out from that survey was visibility of the police.
“That was probably the number 1 thing,” he added. “That was definitely the overall theme for the proposed priorities and initiatives that the policing committee came for us to bring to council.”
He told council the priorities the committee had were "essentially" the same as the previous fiscal year.
Ihme said they included crime reduction, prolific offenders, enhanced awareness and education, police community relations and enhanced road safety.
“But the first being police community relations, visibility of the police, crime reduction, and enhanced road safety,” said Ihme. “So keeping to the main theme of police visibility, things that we looked at were things that got the police out in the community; being visible and being seen by people.”
He told council that on the community relations priority the local RCMP is looking to increase member attendance and participation at community events. He noted last year the local RCMP aimed for 50 events but ended up attending 126.
Ihme said the Innisfail RCMP is also planning on hosting at least two town hall meetings this year.
He added that his detachment wants to bring back the Positive Ticketing Program for youth, a popular initiative that was put on the backburner due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We're going to partner with the town and with the community police officers and have our guys out interacting with youth and having those positive interactions,” said Ihme.
He told council the detachment is bringing in a new category of habitual crime properties.
“These are some of the properties in town that maybe don't have a specific offender that are added but the properties themselves are a problem for the town; places such as the Bluebird (Motel) for instance, plus a few others in town,” said Ihme.
He told council the detachment will also focus more this year on bike patrols, an initiative he said was already being noticed in town.
“My guys were wandering around downtown and a community member came up and asked if they were lost because they kept seeing them all over town,” said Ihme, whose detachment is also looking at more foot patrols, and potentially Mounties riding along trails on quads.
“We're hoping to have this (interaction) as a normal thing,” he added. “When people are walking around interacting with people, they are more likely to stop and chat and talk about their issues than if you're just driving around in a police car.”
Responding to a question from mayor Jean Barclay about the roles of provincially and municipally-funded RCMP members, Ihme told council that for the most part K Division goes under a model that has all detachment members doing “all the work that needs to be done in the area.”
The Innisfail detachment has 10 municipally-funded RCMP members and eight funded by the province.
Following Ihme’s presentation council approved his detachment’s strategic priorities, along with the policing initiatives as recommended by the policing committee.