Community group continues its long tradition of helping police

Morinville Citizens On Patrol is an important local organization that helps police by being extra eyes and ears. Here is our community profile on this group.

Posted by MorinvilleNews.com on Sunday, 3 May 2015

Above is our video of the interview

by Stephen Dafoe

A car rolls up; a man gets out. He heads towards a car that’s not his own, there to see if the owner left it unlocked. The door holds tight, the man has no pry bar to break it open. But then again, he doesn’t need one because he’s not there to rob the vehicle, only to let the owner know the importance of keeping vehicles locked and valuables safe.

It’s one of the many things Morinville’s Citizens on Patrol (COP) have done in the past to help keep their community safe.

They are a small group of dedicated volunteers, trained to assist police.

“Citizens on Patrol are a bunch of volunteers that assist the RCMP in patrolling to the point where we can itemize anything strange that’s going on,” said COP President Keith Norris. “We do it on a rotational basis as best we can.”
But for the watchdog organization, as best they can is limited by the number of volunteer members they have to do patrols.

The organization is currently looking for more volunteers to train this summer to be ready for the fall and winter when increased darkness provides increased cover for those who would commit a crime.

“When it gets darker early, it seems to give the villains a little bit more darkness to hide in,” Norris said. “The more people we can have going out on patrol, the better off the town and community is going to be.”

Norris is quick to point out COP members to not engage in stopping the activity. Rather they are a line of sight for and a line of contact to the RCMP. “They can’t be there all the time, so all we are is another set of eyes and ears for them,” Norris said.

The COP president said the group prefers to patrol at night when criminal and suspicious activity is more prevalent.
“[It’s] mostly when bars are closing. We’re more attuned to speeding, drunk driving, but also vandalism,” Norris said, adding he is disappointed recent vandalism occurred after COP were on patrol.

The math is simple. Each patrol, be it on foot, on bicycles or by car consists of two COP members. With a commitment of only one patrol per month, the organization needs 60 volunteers to cover every night of the week. The organization is currently far short of that number.

“What we are hoping for is a bunch of volunteers that we are able to pair together,” Norris said. “After training, [they] can go out at various times of the evening as many times in a month as we can.”

Norris said patrols are never scheduled for specific areas of Morinville and Cardiff that they cover. Patrols are always random.

Members are given a COP badge, registered with the organization, and given an RCMP member as a liaison.

Becoming a member

Norris said once a potential member fills out an application form; they are interviewed by two members of the organization, often himself and the vice president or treasurer. “For want of a better expression, we vet you,” Norris explained, adding a letter is then sent to RCMP for a police check on the prospective COP member. Once the letter comes back from RCMP training can begin during a three-month probationary period. “You learn how to do things. You learn how to make reports, time reports, [then you] come back and explain at the general meeting how you are getting on,” he said.

Norris said the current obligation is attendance at one meeting per month and volunteering for at least one patrol per month.

“The people who do it are good-hearted, and they enjoy what they are doing, Norris said of his team of volunteers. “We try to make it fun as well as complete.”

Those interested in volunteering with the Morinville Citizens On Patrol can visit MorinvilleCOP.org, email president@morinvillecop.org, or call 780-939-4550 and leave a message.

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