Vol. 79, No. 4Editorial message

RCMP police truck parked on a road in a rural landscape.

A sense of place

Credit: Leann Parker, RCMP


Does the landscape shape how police serve their communities? Do crimes in large urban centres differ from those in remote rural areas? While the realities of policing in downtown Surrey, B.C., won't be the same as a rural community in Nova Scotia, many of the challenges are remarkably similar: property theft, mental health problems, substance abuse and impaired driving, to name a few.

In this issue, we look at how geography and population density impact the policing needs of a community, and how RCMP officers respond with approaches that best target the problems in their cities, towns and counties.

For our cover story, Amelia Thatcher visited three communities in Nova Scotia: remote coastal Digby, greater Halifax and Bible Hill's mix of urban and rural areas. She looks at the day-to-day priorities of RCMP officers, whether it's connecting with residents on a remote island, addressing crime hot spots alongside their urban police partners or conducting joint traffic patrols to stop impaired driving in surrounding counties.

Partnerships also play a key role in the Prairies. Deidre Seiden writes about the often difficult task of policing in remote farming communities, where property crimes such as thefts and break and enters can easily go unnoticed. Police there are working with residents to set up crime watches, encourage video surveillance and form priority crime units to tackle high-volume crimes.

Seiden also talks to two RCMP livestock investigators in Alberta who work with the livestock industry to prevent and investigate cattle theft and act as knowledgeable liaisons between ranchers, farmers and police. This job tackles the usual cattle rustling as well as today's more lucrative crime: cattle fraud.

While property crimes also feature prominently in urban centres, substance abuse and mental health challenges are causing the most harm.

Look at any major city in Canada and you'll see the devastation that fentanyl is leaving in its wake. The deadly opioid first appeared on the streets of urban British Columbia in 2014. And the RCMP's largest detachment in Surrey has faced the brunt of the crisis.

In 2016, Surrey's 135A Street area was hit hard. Thatcher speaks to RCMP members and partner agencies with the Surrey Outreach Team, a pilot project aimed at helping those experiencing homelessness and addiction. The team works out of a small office in the community so it can conduct welfare checks, identify daily priorities and build relationships with vulnerable groups.

The fentanyl scourge has now spread to other areas, big and small, across the country and the challenges are mounting. For their safety and that of the community, front-line officers must receive proper drug awareness training and protective equipment, take mandatory naloxone training, prevent the entry of fentanyl into Canada, and step up drug investigations to shut off supply. They're also learning from experienced officers at the fentanyl epicentre in B.C.

We close our issue with a story about the big difference that a small group of RCMP officers and civilian employees made when inspired to help build a police station in Ongutoi, Uganda. Today, there's a permanent and visible police presence in the community and a safe place where local officers can work. It's what every police officer needs regardless of whether they're posted next to a highrise or a hayfield.

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