At the most recent District of Invermere council meeting, Sgt. Bob Vatamaniuck was on hand to give his quarterly report for quarters three and four of 2016 on the Columbia Valley RCMP detachment.
During his presentation, he informed council that there would be a turnover within the detachment in the coming months with Scott Meyers and Chris Sheppard both departing the valley for other jobs in addition to a current vacancy in their bilingual position. With a detachment that is typically at 11 members including eight constable positions, Vatamaniuck said he expects to run slightly short-handed until they are able to find a replacement in late spring this year.
“Seven of eight I can deal with but when we start getting two or three gone, that’s a third of the compliment and I start to sweat a little bit,” he said.
Another issue that Vatamaniuck presented to council was the fact that impaired driving investigations were not reduced significantly during the two quarter report the way as he had hoped. In 2016 the RCMP had 42 investigations which is only slightly lower than the 45 that they had in the quarter a year prior.
“I’d like to say all of our efforts are working but evidence proves out they’re not getting reduced significantly,” he said. “It’s a double edged sword because when we’re out looking for impaired drivers it usually means we’re going to find one so that of course has an impact on the statistics.”
Among potentially increasing the amount of ride-programs in the area through the summer and holiday seasons, Vatamaniuck insisted that increased visibility within the community will be a goal of the Columbia Valley RCMP to attack this problem.
“Once people see that the Mounties around, often times they’ll put their keys back in their pockets and decide to walk or cab,” he said. “Officer presence has a great impact, a significant impact on impaired driving. If they see a police car going by the three-way stop by the Copper City Saloon, they’re going to be a little less anxious to get behind the wheel and maybe find an alternative route.”
In increasing police presence within the community throughout the Columbia Valley, Vatamaniuk said he hopes to forge a closer relationship with the public to promote openness toward reporting on crimes.
“I think in a small community it’s imperative that the members here have relationships with the community members but aren’t just seen as someone who’s a rule enforcer and is someone who is just out to enforce all of the laws,” he said. “The more personal relationships we build, the more common sense response we build to a lot of things and the more community support we’re also going to garner when there is a level of criminality in the community.”
“People are going to feel more comfortable coming to me and the members here and discussing rumours that they’ve heard or knew of someone that was involved in some criminal activity. If everything is punitive than they’re going to be reluctant to cooperate with us and certainly we’re all in this together.”
For him, this means “going where the people are,” during events in the summer while also doing more boat patrols and making their way out to the beaches in the summer.
“We want everyone to feel safe and welcome and enjoy all of the facilities that the Columbia Valley has to offer without having to feel that they have to leave or be rudely interrupted by someone who either doesn’t have the social skills to be around or has had too much to drink or is looking for any opportunities of any kind of criminality,” he said.