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RCMP wrap town halls in southwest Sask. to gain feedback; clarify purpose
SWIFT CURRENT -- The last in a series of public town halls hosted by the Saskatchewan RCMP followed six similar meetings as police look for potential areas of improvement.
Throughout the week, meetings held in Ponteix, Shaunavon, Morse, Leader, Gravelbourg, and Maple Creek were extremely well attended, with some meetings drawing hundreds of members of the public. The last was held in Swift Current on Thursday.
RCMP Superintendent Kevin Kunetzki, the district officer for southern Saskatchewan, said the purpose of these meetings was misunderstood in some cases.
“As the discussions go back and forth, and we have the face to face communications, which are tremendously important, I think people are better understanding,” Kunetzki said. “The anxiety level goes down, this isn’t an exercise about reducing services, it’s about an exercise of providing a better service for the public.”
He again stresses this consultation will not result in cutting back any policing services in the area or closing detachments.
“Any outcomes that take away from what we have already would be unacceptable,” Kunetzki said. “What we’re looking for here is to at the very least maintain the service that we provide today with the challenges we have today, but more preferably we want to make improvements.”
Thursday’s meeting in Swift Current was a smaller crowd in a school gymnasium, no mics required, as the group comprised of a few dozen people raised issues facing rural Saskatchewan residents like rising property crime, addictions issues, population decline, and crime coming from outside the communities where they’re being committed.
Others called for faster response times and better communication between residents, officers, and detachments, with answers coming from both the superintendent and several members of the Swift Current Rural Detachment who were on hand.
One attendant, Dave Ross, now lives in Swift Current, but lived on a farm near Hazenmore for over 50 years, a community about an hour drive southeast of the city. He says he might live in Swift Current now, but he has noticed the changing rural landscape and demographic in the province.
“Fifty years ago there virtually was no crime, you never took a key out of your vehicle and you never locked your house,” Ross recalled, adding he is at this meeting to stay in the loop about what is happening in rural Saskatchewan.
“[RCMP] are trying to look at things. The rural area we came from, the response time in that was limited on account of their mileage factor,” Ross said after the meeting. “It’s changing times, and I just wanted to be a little aware of what’s going on.”
“[RCMP] are pretty well tied to what the governments say they have to do, I think they do a very good job of it. I hope they can keep ahead of the criminals.”
All of the feedback from the seven meetings is being handled by consulting firm MNP, who will bring the results back to RCMP in approximately six months. Then, police officials will determine the next steps.