The Saskatchewan RCMP has received praise since it launched the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network earlier this year, which informs people through text and/or email message when a crime has been committed in a detachment area.
Now it’s being expanded into municipal police services, and the Estevan Police Service (EPS) is the first in the province to have this service.
An announcement was made in a government news release on Aug.6. Police Chief Paul Ladouceur said the network has been very successful with the RCMP, and he believes it could also have an impact with municipal policing agencies.
The system is through Everbridge, which handles notifications for disasters, severe weather and other situations. Ladouceur noted it’s something people can choose to sign up for, and that the general public won’t be inundated with alerts.
He hopes people will register to receive the advisories through the EPS.
“We’re certainly happy to be the first municipal service to pilot it out, and I think the reason for that is the local RCMP had such good success with it here that it was a natural step,” said Ladouceur.
Ladouceur called the crime watch network a fantastic idea.
“From my view, it’s something that seemed so simple, but was never thought of,” he said. “Everbridge has been used by municipalities for a long time to report on things like tornadoes and serious weather alerts, and things like that, so when you see those emergency alerts, a lot of that comes through Everbridge.”
This is a pilot project, and Ladouceur said if it’s successful in Estevan, it could be expanded to the other municipal policing agencies in Saskatchewan.
“That will be for others to decide, not at our level and not for the Estevan police to make those decisions, that will be a provincial decision,” said Ladouceur.
Sgt. Jeff Clarke said there are 11,869 subscribers to the crime advisory network in Saskatchewan, and of those, 2,469 opted to receive to notifications from the Estevan RCMP. Not all of their subscribers live in the towns and villages within the six rural municipalities that the Estevan RCMP patrols; some of them live in communities well outside of the local RCMP’s jurisdiction.
People can select which policing agencies they want to follow, whether it be just the area where they live. They could follow all of the RCMP detachments in the province if they so choose.
“When we first started out, I got a call from a guy from the Regina-Fort Qu’Appelle area,” recalled Clarke. “He was on ours, but he contacted me directly and wanted to talk about one of the releases we put out.”
He’s not surprised with how many people are subscribing, even though the concept is relatively new.
“The number of eyes and ears we have out there to help us gather information and prevent crime or reduce crime, the better,” Clarke said.
The RCMP can also attach photos, allowing people to see the description of a stolen item or a suspicious vehicle.
Clarke noted the RCMP has had success with the Crime Watch Advisory Network. They were able to recover a couple of stolen flat-deck trailers because people received a notification and saw the trailers. And they were able to make an arrest in an oilfield equipment theft.
He added that the Carlyle RCMP also had success with a suspicious person case, which proved to not be suspicious at all.
“They’re looking for advisories to notify people of criminal activity, or crimes that have recently occurred, or advisories warning regarding notable crime trends in a specific area,” said Clarke.
He also cited the example of how the RCMP sent out some information about a series of thefts that occurred in the Benson, Hitchcock and Macoun areas.
When a crime happens, time is of the essence, Ladouceur said. It’s not just for thefts or mischief complaints; if a serious assault or a robbery has just occurred, then the police can get the information to the public in real time.
“We’ve seen the number of property crimes go up over the last year, with the downturn in the economy,” he said.
The police chief expects to see the number of reports through the network slowly grow in demand locally as officers build up a comfort level in using the system.
“This is one of the best engagement tools that I’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s getting that message out there, because if we expect the public to help solve crime, and be part of the solution, then we have to give them the information to do so.”
Deputy Police Chief Murray Cowan noted it would be supervisors and acting supervisors sending the alerts out, and he believes it will work at reducing crime in the community.
“It’s in everybody’s interest to reduce crimes in our communities, so it’s a tool that everybody can use, and not just the police,” said Cowan.
Ladouceur also noted that the Estevan board of police commissioners is behind the EPS joining the crime watch network, and the provincial government is covering the full cost as far as operations of the program.