New civilian committee to advise Whitehorse RCMP

Whitehorse police have asked the city to form a community advisery committee to help them fight crime.

Whitehorse police have asked the city to form a community advisery committee to help them fight crime.

The recommendation comes in the wake of recent civilian activity against drug dealers in the city.

Dubbed the Whitehorse Area Policing Advisery Committee, the idea is modeled on a similar group that was established in Yellowknife a year ago.

It will be made up of a broad cross-section of Whitehorse residents who will meet on a regular basis with police representatives and a member of city council.

The meetings will be co-ordinated and administrated by the city.

Currently, the police get most of its information from people who call in with complaints, said Whitehorse RCMP Sgt. Ross Milward on Thursday.

This new initiative will help police tackle crime prevention, as opposed to just reacting to crime, he said.

“It’s not that (the committee is) going to tell us how to do our job, they will tell us what the problems are and what the community’s concerns are and those are things we can discuss and address if need be.”

Milward says the idea is not related to last month’s vigilantism activity, when a group of 60 young people confronted an alleged drug dealer at the Capital Hotel.

“That would be the perception probably,” he said.

“But no, it’s got nothing to do with that at all. The timing happened to be such that it was when all this other stuff was in the media.”

The project is part of a nation-wide RCMP initiative and is being implemented in cities across the country, independently of what has happened in the Yukon, said Milward.

Yellowknife happened to get their committee up and running first.

And because Yellowknife is a northern community, Whitehorse RCMP felt it was the best example to follow.

“It’s an excellent concept,” said Yellowknife mayor Gordon Van Tighem on Thursday.

“We’ve had it for a little over a year now and to this point it has been very good as a means of information sharing, he said from Yellowknife.

Yellowknife’s policing advisery committee is made up of 15 members who meet once a month, said Van Tighem.

The positions and a chair are appointed by city council, and the makeup of the committee is chosen to insure a wide spectrum from within the community is represented.

Both the mayor and the head of the Yellowknife RCMP detachment are ex officio members.

“We attend the meetings but we more receive information than provide it,” said Van Tighem, adding the meetings are all conducted in private to allow for the discussion of things of a more sensitive nature.

The meetings give the RCMP a different perception of the community and an alternative to listening to MLAs or the mayor “pounding their desk,” he said.

 “Before this, people would sit back and scratch their heads and say, ‘Why are the RCMP doing this and that?’

“And sometimes the RCMP would be scratching their heads and saying, ‘Why doesn’t the community understand what we’re doing?’”

There is no operating budget for the Yellowknife committee, but any project that develops out of the meetings can become a budgetary item, said Van Tighem.

Currently Yukon RCMP are waiting for a senior officer to come back from a crime prevention seminar in Vancouver before the submission is made, said Milward.

“We’re hoping he comes back with maybe some further tips or whatever that we might want to add into the plan or take out,” he said.

The RCMP hope to have the terms of reference sent to the city within the next two weeks.

Watson Lake and Dawson City may decide to implement a similar initiative depending on how it works in Whitehorse, said Milward.