Jennifer Kee is a Community Engagement and Outreach Specialist with the RCMP in Alberta. Her job takes her across the province to meet with rural residents and business owners, and help them protect themselves and their property. Kee spoke to Paul Northcott about her work, why it's important and how she's doing it differently during a pandemic.
You're working from home now. What's that like?
Things are very different. I'm used to jumping into a fleet car a couple of times a week to visit towns across Alberta. My kids are home, too, and I think they're handling things better than I am because they're so used to connecting with friends on their devices. The biggest thing I'm missing is that face-to-face or personal connection.
How did you get your start with the RCMP?
After I earned a degree in forensic psychology from the University of Manitoba, I moved to Calgary and eventually got a job as a dispatcher with the Calgary Police Service. I did that for 11 years and two more years in St. Albert with Emergency Services. I eventually moved into community policing with the RCMP two years ago. I was looking for a change and wanted to help people.
What is community engagement?
The RCMP is responsible for policing a large portion of the province. I'm lessening their workload so they can concentrate on their policing duties. I meet and work with people and businesses to talk about their concerns and how they make their communities safer. I help by organizing community events or one-on-one meetings with homeowners and businesses.
The tips I've given them include improving landscaping so there's no place for thieves to hide. Property owners should also make sure their home is visible from the road so they can see people approaching their home. Alarm systems and good lighting are also good protection measures. I helped one business that was repeatedly hit by robberies to improve its lighting in and around their store. It was one of my biggest successes. Robberies stopped and customers felt safer coming to the store.
What challenges do you see in Alberta?
Rural property crime has been a big issue in the province for many years. Properties can be large, far apart and many people have valuable belongings like farm equipment, cars and trucks, and all-terrain vehicles.
Although we've seen numbers go down in some areas in recent years, people want to get all the information they can about protecting themselves and their property. It's also been well documented that Alberta is going through a big economic crisis and there are addiction issues. People often fund those activities through criminal behaviour.
How have you been able to help people from home?
I'm still in contact with people across the province on phone or email, providing tips to secure their homes or businesses. Things just take a little longer — gathering information and responding.
I'm on social media and I've asked people who follow me and want to ask me questions, to send them along and I'll respond as best I can. I'm also still working with officers on files and reaching out to media when I can to provide information. I'm not trying to think about a return to work or a return to the new normal. I'm just focused on the day-to-day and on being productive.