June 4, 2020 COVID-19 Message #9
Gibsons’ Business Watch Program and Local Policing A Model of Success
In mid-April, the Town of Gibsons launched a volunteer Business Watch program to provide an extra level of support to small businesses in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the program, local volunteers monitor Gibsons’ commercial areas from their vehicles and report any suspicious or criminal activity they observe to a designated phone number or the RCMP. Intended to put additional eyes and ears into areas that may be unusually quiet, and therefore vulnerable to property crimes or mischief, the volunteer program is an excellent example of community co-operation – and one that was soon adopted by the District of Sechelt.
It has also been endorsed by our local police force, with Staff Sergeant Poppy Hallam, Detachment Commander of the Sunshine Coast RCMP, stating, “You are making a difference. I believe the patrols in Gibsons and Sechelt are deterring crime. Our prolific property offenders know you are out there and they know they cannot take a chance that you are around the corner. Thank you very much for your service.”
I echo those thanks and am, as always, proud of our community’s willingness and ability to supplement the solid, but always finite, services that governments of every level are able to provide. Our many volunteers do make a difference, and it is greatly appreciated.
Recently, Ed Hill, a retired police officer and the Head Coordinator of the Business Watch, reported on the initiative’s first six weeks, noting that since its launch, the program’s 25 volunteer members have provided the following services to the community:
Volunteer Coordinator Hours: 65
# of Patrols (3 hours each): 92
Volunteer Patrol Hours: 276
Kilometers driven: 1300 (estimate)
Volunteer calls to RCMP: 9
Ed also commented on the low-key nature of the duties stating that, “We haven’t seen or found too much in terms of ‘real crime’, and there are those involved with the Business Watch who are perhaps getting ‘bored’ with the exercise. That’s normal, particularly for citizens who [may be tempted to] measure their success with crimes solved, and bad guys in jail [because] that’s their perception of police work.” The reality, Hill goes on to say, is that “our presence is important [and] provides our community with a comfort level they may not even be aware of.”
He also notes the difference between a reactionary police presence, which simply reacts to crimes after the fact and an “interactive, personally involved and visible police presence, which by [its] mere presence, prevents crime while providing a level of familiarity and comfort to a community.”
It’s a wise approach to policing – and one that I am even more aware of, and grateful for, given the series of brutal, highly unsettling events we are currently witnessing in the United States.
At the conclusion of his report, Ed provided an example of the kind of community-based policing that happens in our local communities every day. I’m sharing it here, as a reminder that, almost without fail, the best way to approach an uncertain situation is with kindness, calm and complete respect for the other human beings involved. It’s the type of policing we benefit from here on the Coast, and a vital, often unseen community service we should consistently give thanks for.
“Very late last night, I was doing one last loop of Gibsons businesses. As I drove by Kerns Plaza, I thought I saw someone near the building, but hidden behind one of the building’s structures. Looping around, I drove into the upper parking lot, turned a circle and saw someone sitting on the stairs below the “Decor” sign.
As best I could see, it was a young woman in her late teens or early 20’s, her long hair hanging over slumped shoulders as she sat on the steps alone. She turned and looked directly into my headlights, adjusting her hair a bit, but didn’t react otherwise. She didn’t look happy, but she didn’t look drunk or drugged either. She was sitting there at this time of night for some reason that I’ll never know. But I was concerned. Eighteen years ago, I’d have stopped, as Staff Sergeant Hill, to determine if everything was OK. Tonight, I had to just drive away.
But, as I drove past the Sunnycrest Mall, I could see a police vehicle in the parking lot of Gibsons Building Supply – our community’s police officer for the night. I pulled in, and told him of the girl at the plaza, and he immediately headed that way. I followed to see that he found her and then went on about my patrols.
At 1:00AM, I headed home, again passing by Kerns Plaza parking lot. There was the constable, casually talking to the girl on the stairs. It was obvious there was no drama or tension, just a police officer talking to someone sitting alone in the middle of the night.
It wasn’t a B&E in progress, or a fight being broken up, or gunshots, or car chases. It was simply someone’s daughter, sitting by themselves, perhaps sad, perhaps scared, perhaps running from something she fears. But our police officer was there to see her, to hear her, and to help her if she needed it.
I went home for the night, believing that young lady is likely better off today than perhaps she would have been, if we had not had a police presence in the community. I certainly wouldn’t have called 911 or asked the RCMP to bring a car from Sechelt for a girl sitting on the steps. But having an officer based in Gibsons, in real time, allowed for some great police work.
I think we did it right last night. Police and community worked well together to watch out for one another and to offer help where it might have been needed. I am hopeful that maybe someone’s daughter feels the same.”
Thank You, Volunteers
In closing, and on behalf of Council and our community, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Lindsey Grist (the Town’s Corporate Officer), Ed Hill and the 25 volunteers, most of whom are with the Gibsons Paddle Club, who have made Gibsons Business Watch a success and a model for other communities.
Your actions show that ‘Community Policing’ is not just an ideal, or an oft-used, but essentially meaningless, phrase. In Gibsons, it is a reality and it is because of people like you that our community will continue to succeed and remain a strong and caring community.
Thank you for helping to keep our community safe!
Mayor of Gibsons
05-22-2020 COVID-19 Message #8 from Mayor and Council
04-30-2020 COVID-19 Message #7 from Mayor & Council
04-23-2020 COVID-19 Update #6 from Mayor and Council
04-17-2020 COVID-19 Message #5 with special message to visitors
To watch a video presentation of the message above, please click here.
04-07-2020 COVID-19 Update #4 from Mayor and Council
03-31-2020 COVID-19 Update #3 from Mayor and Council
03-25-2020 COVID-19 Update #2 Mayor and Council
03-20-2020 COVID-19 Update #1 from Mayor and Council
Talk of the Town: Mayor Bill Beamish on Preparing for Wildfires – January 2020
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish on Being Bear Aware – December 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish Education of Local Govt Key to Reconciliation Efforts – November 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Bill Beamish on the Importance of Hearing from All Residents – October 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish on Joining the Fight Against Climate Change – September 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Bill Beamish on Building Community Trust Through Dialogue – August 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Bill Beamish on Living Wages – July 2019
Talk of the Town: Youth Councillors on Climate Change – June 2019
BB Response to CAO Statement June 2019 FINAL
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish on the CAPETOWN CHALLENGE – May 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish – Small Businesses Shell Out More Than Taxes – April 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish on Developing Gibsons’ Vision Statement – March 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Bill Beamish on Open Government – February 2019
Talk of the Town: Mayor Beamish on Donating to the Town – January 2019
Mayor Beamish Inaugural Speech Final – November 2018
Talk of the Town: Mayor Wayne Rowe on Small Business Week – October 2018