Above – Citizen on Patrol volunteers Judith Clarke and Elisabeth Melvin are shown in this Morinville News file photo from 2018. The watchdog organization is currently looking for more volunteers to help keep the streets crime free.
by Stephen Dafoe
Armed with nothing more than a pen and paper, cell phone app, 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 the police because they are limited in the number of volunteers they have at their disposal.
COP Morinville President Elisabeth Melvin said the group currently has fewer than ten volunteers, which means they are only doing about 10-15 hours of patrolling per month.
“We want to get more people involved so that there is power in numbers on the street,” Melvin said. “It is non-confrontational. It’s not about going out with a vendetta that I’m going to get the bad guy. It’s another side of preventative. We want to make Morinville uncomfortable for criminals.”
Melvin’s number one goal is connecting with Morinville’s new Detachment Commander to talk about how the group can continue to be the eyes and ears for police.
“I believe it is a neighbour’s duty to take care of a neighbour,” Melvin said. “That’s just part of being a caring community. My number one step is to find out how we can best support him and his people in what we do.”
Melvin sees Citizens on Patrol as one instant solution to helping with the issue of not enough police on the street.
As with many organizations, one of the challenges in getting more volunteer members is the 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. Melvin said that patrol could be as little as an hour.
Not all patrols are in the middle of the night. Because crime happens in the day, Melvin said there is an opportunity for all who want to be involved.
“They can get into a vehicle, drive around and highly impact their community,” she said. “It’s for all ages – 18 plus.”
Melvin explained COP use a smartphone app that monitors the member’s path and allows notes to be taken as well as photos to be uploaded to a report the app emails at the end of the patrol.
Volunteers use their vehicle, are paid mileage, and travel two to a vehicle on typically 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 be 18 years of age, 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.
The group meets every two months on Monday night for a meeting that runs usually for an hour or two.
Those looking for more information on Citizens on Patrol can visit their website at http://www.morinvillecop.org.
Melvin said Morinville COP would hold an information night at Higher Grounds this summer to welcome the community and introduce them to what the watchdog organization does.