Could a citizen patrol group be coming back to Yellowknife?

Frame Lake Trail
Yellowknife's Frame Lake Trail.
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Yellowknife mayor Mark Heyck says it may be time for a citizen patrol group to be reintroduced in the city.

Heyck says he’s not convinced crime is proliferating in Yellowknife, despite an evacuation over a suspicious package, two pepper spray attacks on stores, a shooting and a car chase in the last week.

But he admits the city is exploring the idea of reinvigorating a crime prevention service that’s been dormant in Yellowknife for more than six years now.

“We’ve been working with a couple of residents and the RCMP on reconstituting the citizen patrol group which was up and running several years ago,” Heyck told Moose FM.

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“The materials and resources are readily available and I think there’s interest in the community to revive something like that so it wouldn’t surprise me to see something up and running in short order.

“It worked quite well in the past and we’re hopeful that we can see something like that again.”

Read: Yellowknife shooting: Two men face attempted murder charges

The program involves volunteers doing community patrols and reporting crime to police. Heyck says one of the most important components of citizen patrol groups is that they’re not based in intervention.

Yellowknife resident Lea Martin is spearheading the movement to bring the program back to the community.

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“It’s a volunteer program that we will resurrect,” Martin told Moose FM. “Right now we’re at the stage where we’re just awaiting word on liability insurance for volunteers and revising the training manual.

Martin, who participated in the Yellowknife program before it went dormant, told Moose FM she’d like to see an improved service this time around.

She’s been looking at similar programs in Alberta to determine how the group should be run in Yellowknife.

“This time, rather than being eyes and ears for the police, it’ll be community-based program whereby we will train volunteers to go out into the community and be the eyes and ears for the community and look for risky situations in order to prevent or reduce crime.

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“What we’ve learned is that it’s better that the program doesn’t fall under either a police force or necessarily as a city program. Instead, it will be run by volunteer coordinators and will be closely linked to RCMP and municipal enforcement division services.

“We have quite a large number of people here in Yellowknife that are ready, willing and able to volunteer.

“I think the program might also change people’s mindsets as well because some people are not comfortable having a direct reporting relationship with the police force.”

Heyck says the city is looking to organize a town hall meeting in the coming months to gauge how much community interest there is in the group.

Martin hopes the program will be up and running again by June.

Crime isn’t worsening

Despite recent criminal activity in Yellowknife, Heyck isn’t convinced crime is on the rise in the capital city.

“You see surges of this kind of activity every once in a while. Overall, long-term, I haven’t seen any changes or trends that would indicate to me that Yellowknife is becoming less safe than it’s been in the past,” Heyck told Moose FM.

“There were issues with the drug trade in the early 2000s that were comparable to the kinds of issues that we’ve seen in recent months.

“We get monthly reports from the RCMP on what they’re seeing in terms of criminal activity in the community and I don’t see any major trends or changes that would indicate that public safety is at risk.”

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