Community Champions: Citizens on Patrol

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Above – Citizen on Patrol volunteers Judith Clarke and Elisabeth Melvin attend the recent Active Living Fair to raise awareness on the local watch organization.

by Stephen Dafoe

Armed with nothing more than a pen and paper, cell phone, flashlight, police scanner, and a couple of cups of coffee, a small number of residents regularly take to the streets of Morinville, keeping their eyes and ears open for what doesn’t look and sound right. They’re Citizens on Patrol (COP), a civilian watch organization that has been operating in Morinville since 1997. Over the past 21 years, the volunteer group has been doing their part for community policing in Morinville.

But the crime watch organization is limited in just what they can do to help police because they are limited in the number of volunteers they have at their disposal.

Judith Clarke, a COP volunteer said the local chapter has about a dozen active members. As such, the group is limited in the number of patrols they can do to assist the Morinville RCMP.

“It helps protect our town and the children,” Clarke said of the work the COP do in the community, adding she has been with the organization for about 12 years. “[It’s] knowing that I’m helping behind the scenes as the eyes and ears of the RCMP. They’re doing the best they can, but they’re limited.”

As with many organizations, one of the challenges in getting more volunteer members is a belief that people have to commit a lot of time.

With COP they don’t. Members are required to do patrols, but they can do patrols when they are available and wish to do them. The requirement is to do one patrol a month.

Volunteers use their vehicle, are paid mileage, and travel two to a vehicle on 90-minute to two-hour patrols. Volunteers never get out of the vehicle – they’re just the eyes and ears of the RCMP.

Beyond that, all volunteers need to have a positive outlook about the community and police, undergo a criminal record check, and take some training, which consists of three patrols with experienced members. After that, they are sanctioned to do patrols.

Those looking for more information on Citizens on Patrol can visit their website at http://www.morinvillecop.org.

Volunteer Lis Melvin said even those who do not volunteer could help by reporting all crime to the police.

“It can be a small crime, but they can be interlocked,” Melvin said. “If I report a crime and you report a crime and it’s the same person doing a similar thing, we get to see the pattern.”

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