Columbia Valley RCMP Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac recently provided the various municipal councils in the valley with his 2015 year-end report while stating his priorities for policing in 2016.
Radium councillors accepted the community policing report from Shehovac at the Wednesday, January 27th Village of Radium Hot Springs council meeting. He presented in Canal Flats two days prior and will present to Invermere council in February.
“This will be my last official report as a (Mountie) member,” he told council. “I have submitted my retirement papers and my last day of work is March 4th, 2016.”
In total, there were 2,937 calls for service recorded at the Columbia Valley RCMP Detachment during 2015, as opposed to 2,687 for 2014. Of those calls in the valley, there were 259 calls for service in Radium Hot Springs recorded in 2015, which has increased from the recorded 247 calls to the detachment during 2014.
He also pointed out that a considerable increase in calls in Canal Flats following the partial — and then final — closure of the mill there, with calls jumping from 88 in 2014 to 129 in 2015.
“The calls for service (in Canal Flats) have gone up considerably. We are seeing more domestic/relationship disputes,” Shehovac later told The Echo, adding the majority were alcohol-fuelled.
“I have no doubt that the closure of the mill for some people, individuals and families has caused more stress in their lives — family stress and financial stress/pressure,” he said.
But Shehovac believes there’s nothing the Mounties can’t handle.
“The detachment strength at this (Columbia Valley) branch is at a surplus,” Shehovac told Radium council, when discussing the staffing numbers in the area. “We’re in good shape.”
He said the Columbia Valley RCMP Detachment is fully staffed with one sergeant, two corporal supervisors and eight constables.
He explained that Cst. Scott Myers will temporarily be remaining in the valley because his transfer up north is on hold due to the sale of his home. While the process of selecting, screening and hiring a new staff sergeant for the valley takes place, Cpl. Grant Simpson will be acting in command
“In 2008, we had an influx of new members come to the detachment,” said Shehovac, while listing off several staff members’ names. “A lot of members who spent five years here had built up their skills and we’re very aggressive in pursuing search warrants. They dug hard in going after the known criminals in the area, so just when you build them up, five years later it’s time to leave… all of a sudden the junior members have come into general duty.”
He added there was some imbalance in experience at the Columbia Valley detachment.
“And just like with our hockey team, you want to have a balance of vets (veterans) and you want to have your balance of rookies,” he said. “We had a good balance for a while when the vets were up here, but now there’s kind of a shift. Now, there’s a challenge for the new manager to give the guys a course to get the tools to try to even off that balance again.”
He anticipates his move out of the valley RCMP will be seamless and police services won’t be hampered or hindered.
“The detachment priorities remain the same as they have been for the past several years. When I talk to some of the leadership in the community, what I’m always hearing is drug and alcohol abuse,” said Shehovac, while stating that the visibility of police presence and an effort to promote traffic safety remain major goals for the Columbia Valley.
“Traffic safety was a priority that was identified by the Southeast District E Division,” he added.
In addition, Shehovac is encouraging the Mounties in the valley to pursue distracted and impaired drivers.
“I’m recommending that those three priorities remain the same,” he said.
Shehovac remains optimistic that his replacement hire will continue to promote a community-minded police philosophy by building relationships in the valley through events such as the high school floor hockey challenge, Cram the Cruiser food bank fundraisers and the RCMP Detachment Open House. He is also hopeful the new hire will be mindful about the importance of building positive relationships with youth and seniors in the community.
He added the Columbia Valley was an easy place for him to call home and believes the upcoming staffing changes could have the same effect on others.
“I came to the valley with the intention of completing three years, then planning to retire,” concluded Shehovac. “But the citizens in the community made my decision to keep going a very easy and enjoyable one to make. I will miss this community in my present capacity as your detachment commander and I now look forward to continuing my enjoyment of the valley, as I am not going far… I have every intention, pending emergencies, to return to carry on with volunteer work.”