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EXPULSION LETTERS HAVE OTHER COMMUNITIES, INCLUDING VANCOUVER, INTERESTED IN ADOPTING SIMILAR PROCESS, SAYS OSOYOOS RCMP BOSS
The use of expulsion letters by RCMP and local bylaw enforcement staff to warn people who were misbehaving and breaking the law on Town of Osoyoos beaches and in town parks was so successful, other jurisdictions, including the City of Vancouver, are looking to implement similar programs, says Osoyoos RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Kevin Schur.
During his quarterly presentation to members of town council on Monday, Schur said the expulsion letters proved to be a huge success in getting undesirable people out of town parks and off town beaches, so much so he has been contacted by other RCMP detachments across the province seeking more information about the program.
“The expulsion letters worked very well … many other jurisdictions are looking at mimicking this, including the City of Vancouver,” said Schur. “The program worked well.”
Early last summer, town councillors approved a program that allowed RCMP officers and bylaw enforcement staff to issue expulsion letters to numerous repeat offenders who were gathering on town beaches and in town parks.
Council approved spending several thousand dollars to increase funding to pay for increased patrols and allowed officers to issue the expulsion letters to people who refused to heed warnings about engaging in illegal behaviour, particularly drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana in plain view of local residents and other tourists visiting town.
The expulsion letters attained their desired effect as numerous repeat offenders were handed letters and warned they would face potential criminal charges if they returned to the local beach or park they had been issued the expulsion letter in.
Many of the complaints filed by residents of the community were directed at a small, but persistent group of migrant farm workers from Quebec who gathered at Gyro Beach and Lions Park once the beautiful spring weather arrived in Osoyoos last April and May.
Within less than a month of the expulsion letters being issued, the majority of repeat offenders who were being targeted by police and bylaw enforcement had left town, he said.
Mayor Stu Wells said the use of expulsion letters to deter troublemakers from engaging in illegal activities was a necessary step considering how many complaints the town was receiving and he’s encouraged they worked so well.
Town council would like to see the program enacted even earlier once the nice weather begins next spring, said Wells.
For the third quarter of 2012, which Schur said is traditionally the busiest time of year for officers in a resort municipality like Osoyoos, the number of calls was actually down four per cent from July to September as compared to the previous year.
However, the number of actual criminal investigations actually increased as more officers were involved in “self generated investigations” that allowed officers to be involved in more foot patrols due, in large part, to the funding provided by town council, said Schur.
Osoyoos had a dramatic increase in vehicle break-ins and thefts in July, but those numbers dropped dramatically following an investigation leading to the arrest of an organized gang of thieves from Ontario, said Schur.
Drinking and driving remains a problem in town as 26 drivers were issued 90-day suspensions in the third quarter, two impaired driving charges were laid and numerous other short-term suspensions were issued, he said.
During 30 road checks organized by RCMP, more than 1,000 vehicles were stopped leading to 40 impaired driving investigations during this three-month period, he said.
“That’s quite a lot,” said Schur.
The local detachment only operated about a dozen patrols of Osoyoos Lake this past summer, but plans on dramatically increasing those numbers next spring, summer and fall as it has received additional funding to conduct marine patrols, said Schur.
The Osoyoos RCMP is very interested in the idea of the formation of community consultation group, that would include a member or two from council, local business owners, seniors and citizens at large, to discuss what they believe to be the most serious policing issues in this community, said Schur.
This committee would be able to identify community needs by getting input from various stakeholders about what is working well and areas that have to be addressed from a policing perspective, said Schur.
Wells said he also looks forward to this community group being formed early in 2013.
After more than 10 years of operating a regional policing model where officers in Oliver and Osoyoos handled calls in both communities, RCMP management has decided to go back to a standalone operation in both towns, effecitve December 1.
Wells said he’s also excited about the local RCMP detachment operating once again as a standalone operation, as he believes having local officers visible in the community here in Osoyoos is important.
“We lost a sense of community … that’s what we lost,” said Wells.
Having local officers handling local calls only is a positive step in the right direction, said Wells.