“We are the eyes and the ears for the police.”
That is how Annemarie Ruckel describes the Summerland Citizens on Patrol (COPS). She has been a member of this community service group since its inception in 1997.
“I think we’ve made a difference,” she said.
COPS currently have 27 members. On Friday and Saturday nights they pair up and go out in two cars to patrol the community. They cover all of the areas within the municipal boundaries.
“We are the awareness for the RCMP, meaning we patrol, we watch, we look, we report,” explained Roy Cansdale, “But we are not hands on.”
For the safety of these volunteers they are required to stay in their vehicles at all times. Their role is not to ticket anyone but only to record and report what they see.
“We help the RCMP. They can’t be everywhere. It is part of keeping the community safe,” said Irene Meheriuk. “They like us being there and we like to be out there helping them. They’re really supportive of us.”
Constable Jacques Lefebvre of the Summerland RCMP detachment spoke of the Citizens on Patrol as being “very valued.”
“They are extra eyes for us,” he said.
COPS do more than just patrol. They also have a speed watch program. They set up a speed reader board and record the speeds of drivers passing by. They concentrate on school zones and other spots that the police identify as problem areas in regards to drivers speeding. Any excessive speeds noticed are recorded and the vehicle model and license number are given to the RCMP.
A new program that they have started is called Cell Watch. A sign is erected to warn drivers that COPS are in the area. They watch for distracted drivers. They are mainly watching for drivers using cell phones or who may be texting while driving.
“We are also watching for people with food or beverages in their hands or even dogs can be a distraction,” said Ruth Manning. “If we see something obvious we take the license number and turn it into the RCMP.”
Manning serves as the Recording Secretary for the group and said that they keep records of everything they see and do.
Other services are also provided by this dedicated group of volunteers.
As they patrol the community they make note of any street lights that they see burned out and give the information to the electrical department.
ICBC provides COPS with all of the stolen cars in their data base on a weekly basis. The patrolling citizens keep a sharp eye out for these cars as they drive around the community.
“We’ve brought crime to a standstill, so we have to do other stuff now,” quipped the president for COPS, Doug Hardman.
He explained that when he first started patrolling ten years ago things were very different.
“There were gangs of kids out then. One night there were a hundred kids in the park and it was a dangerous situation,” he said. “You very seldom see kids on the street anymore.”
If a person wants to become a Citizen on Patrol, they must first contact the RCMP and have a background check done.
Meetings are held once per month and the volunteers usually go out twice per month.
“We do a lot of social activities within our group, like barbecues and we get together after meetings,” said Cansdale. “We have a good rapport within the whole group.”
He said he believes this is one of the main reasons they retain their membership.
While the core members of this group have been in it for the long term, they are always on the lookout for new volunteers to join them to be those extra eyes and ears for our police force.