If at least that many people don’t sign up, then there’s no point in going forward, Tammy Cocke told town council during a Feb. 12 town council meeting.
Cocke said she put out a call for volunteers on the local community watch page (via Facebook) a couple of times last December and in January, but only three or four people volunteered.
“I just thought it would spread like wildfire,” she said.
A few councillors said they didn’t even know community watch existed. Coun. Paul Webb noted as of Feb. 12, 312 people were on the community watch page.
During a 24-minute discussion with council, Cocke, who also works as a bylaw officer for the town, suggested getting the call out for volunteers into the town’s next newsletter.
Cocke also suggested making the town office a central point of contact where potential volunteers could contact her via the town phone number. It was suggested that the town could also create registration forms that volunteers could fill out.
“(We need) a link or something; just a sign that says ‘sign up at the town office; put your name down. We’ll get in contact with you as soon as the numbers come,'” she said. “We have to come up with something, that’s the thing.”
Cocke said FCSS worker Jade Prefontaine had offered to help create posters to increase awareness of the need for volunteers as well.
Cocke said at least 40 volunteers are needed to prevent burnout of those who do get involved.
“It doesn’t help if you have the same 10 people doing it all the time. They get burnt out too,” Cocke said. “They have lives, and we have to all respect that too, right?”
Stuart noted last year, people he talked to seemed to be ready to get involved. Somehow that didn’t really happen.
“When I was going door to door in the election (last fall), a lot of people I spoke to said, ‘why haven’t you got one going? I’d sign up in a minute.’ But of course, then they’re the last ones to do that. ‘Oh, I’m busy this week,'” Stuart said.
Cocke said requirements for volunteers will include providing their driver’s abstract and undergoing a criminal record check.
“It’s all checked out through COP. And they want to keep it safe too, right? Our number 1 thing is the safety of everybody and that’s why we want the 40 people,” she said.
“And that’s the thing, is people have to commit to the training. Yeah, you can sign up, but if you’re not going to go for the training, chances of you getting on that list to go out, you’re more of a hazard than anything, right? Because then somebody’s liable for your butt for not doing – not following protocol.”
The need for fundraising was discussed.
Mayor Robb Stuart said the province does provide money, but very little when you take into account the many communities throughout Alberta looking at setting up COP groups.
Stuart said the town may be open to helping fund the group “but we need the numbers before we could move forward.”
At Stuart’s suggestion, council voted unanimously to get as much information as it can about COP with a view to bringing that information back for a later council meeting and allowing for it in the next town budget.
Cocke said there may be a way to reimburse volunteers for the gas used while going out on patrols.
“How much fuel can you burn driving around Bowden,” Coun. Wayne Milaney asked.
“That’s the way people are nowadays. I hate to say it, but it is. That is how people are nowadays. They want something for it,” Cocke said.
“Even 20 years ago the old Citizens On Patrol, I think you got $10 or $12 a night for driving around,” Stuart said.
“It’s not going to be a huge incentive but at least it’s more of a, ‘hey, it’s not out of my pocket all the time.’ It’s more of a thank you for doing it. That’s where some of that fundraising would be beneficial to it,” Cocke said.
Cocke confirmed that organizers had initially hoped a Bowden group could be part of the Olds COP, but that can’t happen. Olds COP public relations person Phyllis Horpenuk had also relayed that message in an earlier Albertan story.
“The officers there, they want to keep it separate. They do not want to have two towns underneath one. And it would probably be a headache for them too,” Cocke said.
“You’ve done an amazing job, all the paperwork that you’ve generated. I think it’s been really good for the town that you’ve played such a proactive role,” Stuart said to Cocke.
“Yeah, it’s getting there, slowly but surely. It takes time,” she said. “It is very hard. If we don’t have the volunteers we can’t do it. There’s only so much we can do.”
Stuart said the new Olds RCMP detachment commanding officer, Staff Sgt. Jim MacDonald, indicated support for such a group when MacDonald met with him for two hours recently.
“It doesn’t help if you have the same 10 people doing it all the time. They get burnt out too,” Cocke said. “They have lives, and we have to all respect that too.”