Crime prevention a community responsibility, forum told

Cpl. Jason Bayda, far left, and Mayor Sue McKortoff listen as Crimestoppers director Rick Dellebuur fields a question from a crime-wary audience.

Osoyoos is a safe place to live, but making it even safer is a responsibility of the entire community.

That was the message about 100 Osoyoos residents heard earlier this month as the Town of Osoyoos and Osoyoos RCMP held a community policing open house at the Sonora Centre.

Supt. Kevin Hewco
Supt. Kevin Hewco

“We need you help. We need your patience. And we need your understanding,” said Supt. Kevin Hewco, who travelled from Penticton to join officers from the Osoyoos detachment in making the presentation.

“We need your valuable information. And, when the time comes, we need you as a witness in court.”

A review of recent response statistics, though, shows except for the occasional theft or other property crime, Osoyoos is a fairly quiet station for RCMP.

“We look for significant changes and significant trends,” Supt. Hewco explained as he reviewed recent crime statistics with those gathered. “There’s nothing alarming in these numbers.”

In a brief question and answer period after the presentation, residents were able to provide concrete examples of where they see issues in the community. However, the limited number of concerns seemed to support the RCMP position.

The message from RCMP, though, was also one of commonsense and vigilance. Much of the local detachment’s work — as it is throughout the Okanagan valley — focuses on “prolific offenders,” Supt. Hewco said.

These “opportunists” look for easy marks — vehicles left unlocked with valuables remaining inside, homes and businesses unprotected while residents are away — and will take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves, the audience heard.

“Let’s be vigilant, but not paranoid,” Supt. Hewco counseled.

Cpl. Jason Bayda provided an example of how community involvement assists local RCMP, recounting the recent break-in and vandalism at Gyro Park. It was a single bit of information provided to RCMP — “the first name of one person and the possible name of a second person — that helped RCMP solve the case.

The investigating officer was able to search databases, identify a potential suspect and “very quickly get them into the office and get an admission.”

Much of the local RCMP’s work is reactive, Cpl. Bayda said, but it also undertakes proactive work as time permits. That includes traffic enforcement.

The biggest concern for Mounties right now is distracted driving, Cpl. Bayda said.

“We see that all the time,” he said. “The way they’re driving you think their impaired when in fact they’re texting on the phone. One of the numbers we like to see is zero fatal collisions,” he said. “We want to keep it that way.”

The limited number of officers stationed in Osoyoos — eight in total — makes it a challenge to provide 24-hour policing in the community, he said. Like any other organization, the RCMP has priorities and can’t always work as diligently on minor offences as the public might like, especially when only one or two officers will be on duty at a single time.

That was a position supported by Supt. Hewco, who said he spends a substantial amount of his time dealing with personnel issues.

“Nobody works 24 hours a day. We have training. We have annual vacation. We have illnesses like everyone else,” said Supt. Hewco. “So for managers like Randy and Jay it’s a constant juggling situation to keep boots on the ground through some difficult times.”

Have your say . . .