The RCMP in Saskatchewan is using an online mass-notification tool that's transforming how police interact with the public.
The Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network is a pilot project that provides RCMP officers with a fast and user-friendly platform to alert citizens once police become aware of suspicious or criminal activity.
"In rural areas police can't be everywhere all the time," says Supt. Kevin Kunetzki. "So we had to come up with a unique way to improve how we police."
S/Sgt. Devin Pugh, Saskatchewan RCMP South District Commander, says police previously used social media to connect with citizens.
"It was kind of like that game (telephone) you played as a kid: messages were sent but sometimes the message got changed," says Pugh.
Now, the public can go online to join the network, which is currently being funded by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Corrections and Policing. Residents can select a method — text, email or a text-to-voice translation to a landline — to receive advisories and from which detachment.
Once alerts are sent, residents have the opportunity to notify police with any new information about the incident. As a result, police have recovered stolen property more quickly and calls for service that once took hours, have been resolved in minutes.
The network's online platform also provides district commanders and managers with a more efficient way to request additional resources in urgent situations.
"Instead of hours making calls to find members during an emergency, we can find officers in minutes," says Kunetzki, who notes that aspect of the program has been available since January throughout Saskatchewan.
The network was first launched in southern Saskatchewan in March and then made available province-wide in April. Funding is in place until spring 2020 at which time Kunetzki hopes it becomes permanent.
Residents can join the network by registering on the websites of the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network, the Saskatchewan RCMP, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.