Crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility and Alberta Citizens on Patrol (COP) Association secretary treasurer Beth Endresen said residents are being urged to step up in Sexsmith.
The Sexsmith COP group has 22 active members, down 10 from pre-pandemic.
“Since COVID, we’ve had a lot of members fall off our radar just because they had decided they didn’t want to patrol anymore and then they just didn’t come back,” said Endresen.
COP requires a very low time commitment, Endresen said, with members only patrolling for a couple hours every month.
“Currently our 22 members patrol on weekends for a couple of hours a night,” she said.
“They just patrol around the town, looking for suspicious activity and report it to the RCMP. That’s our main job, to be the eyes and the ears of the RCMP.”
With more members, Endresen said time requirements would be even less.
“The more members we have, you could go every other month; that’s the way it was when we had 32 members,” she said.
“Nobody was patrolling during COVID because you have to travel in pairs, so the only people who could patrol were spouses, because we couldn’t be in the car with somebody else to maintain that six foot distance.
“None of the COP groups across Alberta patrolled during COVID.”
Potential members must be over the age of 18 and are required to provide a criminal record check.
“We do provide some training. The Alberta COP Association website has numerous training videos,” said Endresen.
The RCMP has numerous programs in place to prevent crime, she adds.
“You always hear, ‘Why would I call the RCMP? They never call me back.’ But they'll call you back within the week to get the details on the crime and investigate it after the fact.”
Maintaining the South Peace COP
La Glace and Hythe used to have COP programs of their own which have since folded. Endresen said that Grande Prairie was also attempting to start a local COP program, which has not seen success.
“Sexsmith is the last COP group in the area, so we’d really like to keep that going,” Endresen said.
But while La Glace and Hythe have folded their COP programs, new groups have opened in High Prairie and Legal, and there is interest in starting a group in Fairview, Endresen said.
“We actively recruit there as well,” she said.
“We’ve got new groups starting all the time.”
There are currently 49 COP groups across the province. Endresen said provincially, the organization is holding steady in the years following COVID.
“We had two groups quit, and three groups start up, so right now it’s holding steady,” she said.
“A few years ago before COVID, we had upwards of 83 groups. It definitely has gone down; people are having trouble finding volunteers for their organizations.
“Some groups are trying to collaborate with each other; for example, Innisfail, Penhold and Red Deer work together in that area trying to do some crime prevention. Wherever they can, they try to make it work.”
Interested recruits can find an application form on the Alberta COP Association website at acopa.ca, or can visit the Sexsmith town office to receive an application form.