Some 780 notices went out to Bouchie Lake residents for a meeting at the Bouchie Lake Hall on Jan. 17.
Seventy-eight people, or 10 per cent of the community, showed up. Twenty-four signed up for the Bouchie Lake Watch Program and more have signed up since the meeting.
Quesnel RCMP Const. Josh Nutley gave a presentation about crime in the area.
It was entertaining, informative and sobering all at the same time, says key organizer Barb Bachmeier.
Criminals are better organized than before, Nutley said, adding some are being caught with shopping lists and of homes that are being targeted to fill those lists.
“Quesnel itself has become a Gong Show.”
Prince George and Williams Lake used to have some of the worst crime stats in the province if not the country, he said, adding both have been working hard to reduce those stats by bringing in more resources to combat crime.
“The fallout from crime reduction initiatives in other areas is Quesnel’s stats are becoming worse and so are the stats for areas like Bouchie Lake.”
Criminals will spend two-week stints in each area like Bouchie Lake, casing out homes and then robbing them, he explained.
Bachmeier noted that once residents have had all their stolen possessions replaced, the criminals target the same areas and residents again, taking the brand new items.
Meanwhile, there are only 30 RCMP in Quesnel and area, and they are paid through urban and rural property taxes, she said.
The rural-paid officers have to cover a huge geographical area along with assisting the officers paid for by the City of Quesnel when major property crimes happen like last week’s Dodge dealer, Quizno’s and the Shell gas station break-ins.
Most of these break-ins are drug related, Nutley said, adding some drug users have $500-a-day drug habits.
He noted RCMP members arrest one group and shut them down only to have another group move in to take their place.
Our officers are swamped with paperwork and spend countless hours putting together cases, he noted.
When they’re in jail, they get free medical, dental and schooling if they choose, he said, adding they get cleaned up from their drug habits, and have the use of a fully equipped gym, so they are fit when they come out.
“The trip to jail also helps them to network with other criminals.”
Bachmeier said the residents of Bouchie Lake are frustrated with the lack of service due to so few resources in the rural area.
She added they would like to see a dog unit locally and a specialized RCMP unit to help with investigations.
“We can help with this by telling our elected officials this is what we want and we are willing to pay the cost through taxation.”
What can Bouchie Lake residents do to help?
The key organizer said the message is clear – residents can become just as organized as the criminals.
“We need residents to personally become involved by learning how to be observant, joining the local Neighbourhood or Block Watch group or to be instrumental in setting one up.”
She noted residents need to get informed and know their neighbours.
Bouchie Lake needs more eyes and ears open and more boots on the ground to help the RCMP officers, she said, adding residents are the key to bringing crime to heel.
“We need to push our elected officials for more resources in our rural areas. A local dog unit would be a great asset in locating perpetrators faster and more investigative officers are needed. We need to be pro-active, not just reactive, to what is going on in our neighbourhoods. We need to ‘watch each other’s backs’.”
Bachmeier said the local group is putting together a Bouchie Lake Watch Program with the assistance of Const. Nutley and the local RCMP Detachment.
“We will make Bouchie Lake a Rural Crime Watch Area.”
She said they need local residents to become involved, and they will contact those who have already indicated they are interested when they have training sessions in the next four to six weeks.
“We are going to ‘Kick Crime Out’ of Bouchie Lake.”