Mission Insp. Ted De Jager speaks before a large crowd that turned out to Thursday night's police forum.

Public pose questions about Mission RCMP priorities

Mission RCMP forum draws large crowd seeking more patrols, better response times and more police presence downtown.

More patrols, a larger presence in the downtown core and consistent response times were the main concerns expressed at a Mission RCMP public forum held last week.

More than 200 people came to the Leisure Centre to ask questions of Mission RCMP Insp. Ted De Jager. The event was designed to allow the public input in the process to set 2015 policing priorities.

At times, people were lined up four and five deep waiting for their opportunity to speak.

One subject that kept coming up was dealing with drug addiction and mental health issues in the downtown core.

“We’re not going to find an immediate solution to something that’s going to take a long time to resolve,” explained De Jager.

He said homelessness and drug addiction is not something police can solve by themselves. The whole community has to be involved in finding a solution.

“If their issue is mental health or addictions, then it’s not criminal.”

Many people at the forum wanted to see more of a police presence in the community.

“Do you have plans on having regular foot patrols in the downtown area?” asked Jamie Hayes of the Mission Downtown Business Association.

“Yes, we are,” replied De Jager. “Last year, since downtown was one of the priorities, one of the initiatives that we had that was supported by the community was the downtown foot patrol,” consisting of police officers and auxiliary members.

Other criticisms included a lack of response by police to reports by Block Watch or other calls.

De Jager explained that not all calls can be addressed immediately.

“Our call response, like any police force, is based on priority,” he said, adding that violent crime will always have a higher priority than property offences. Calls are prioritized by the RCMP’s operational communications centre in Chilliwack.

“Bear in mind that we have limited resources. We have to find the balance between a police officer always coming – because that is the most expensive way to address the problem – and the whole  community being involved.”

Domestic violence, property crime and problematic youth were also discussed.

While many people asked questions, several others voiced their approval of the work the police have done.

Following the meeting, De Jager continued to answer questions on a one-on-one basis. He said he was pleased with the number of people who took an interest in the forum.

“We were certainly prepared for any type of questions that were going to come. That’s the whole point in having this – to get a very clear picture of what the community concerns are. That’s going to help us set our priorities for the next year.”

One initiative he wants to discuss is setting up an advisory committee, similar to police boards that municipal forces have.

He also wants to address the notion of visibility in the community.

While he believes visibility is important, it has to be balanced with intelligence-led policing.

“We don’t do a lot of good being where the crime is not.”

De Jager will now meet with his senior management team and “digest” the information and feedback received. Then he will present the findings to council and the public.