The Fort St. James RCMP are again struggling with a shorthanded detachment, coupled with increasing calls from the public regarding downtown.
A recent discussion by mayor and council saw a strong desire from both Councillor Gingrich and Mayor MacDougall for more enforcement and calls from the public to deal with the problems of drinking in public and other offences (Sept. 12 issue of The Caledonia Courier, page 6)
Staff Sergeant Paul Thalhofer is concerned already stretched resources which he would like to see working on more serious offences – such as domestic violence, drug trafficking or proactive programs such as school talks – are continually being directed at dealing with minor problems around loitering in the downtown area.
“We saw a real spike in our complaints by business owners (after the cold beer and wine relocated),” said Thalhofer.
He was concerned with the lack of consultation with RCMP regarding the change in location for the store.
The detachment is down about 30 per cent in personnel due to a number of factors including injuries and awaiting officers who have been reassigned to Fort to sell their homes and relocate..
The calls to deal with drinking in public or other minor offences downtown since the liquor store relocated has “been increasingly taking our resources,” he said.
Priorities he said the community identified to him earlier in the year such as drug houses and school talks are falling by the wayside as officers spend their time downtown.
The problem is, arresting people in the downtown is not going to eliminate the problem, according to Thalhofer.
“I don’t think enforcement is necessarily the answer,” he said.
He would like to see the district work with the RCMP to find some solutions.
While the problems now seen in the downtown have been going on for a number of years, it was not as much in the public eye as it is now, but there were always there and will continue to be.
“I’d rather see our resources used on something that would have a bigger impact on public safety,” he said.