Coun. Cheryl Ashlie wants to deliver a message to the Conservative government and its get-tough-on-crime approach.
Dollars spent on crime prevention, such as the community safety officer program, are worth far more than the billions allotted to upgrade and expand Canada’s prisons.
Ashlie made the comments Monday as Maple Ridge council reviewed the community safety officer program started three years ago as a pilot project. She wanted her comments noted in a letter the district will send to RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, calling for the program to be made permanent.
According to RCMP, CSOs were created to test the concept of unarmed officers doing community policing. Maple Ridge is one of the few communities that have CSOs, with three on duty since 2008. One helps out on the downtown foot patrol and the other two are in the youth resource unit.
Officers work with community groups, businesses and schools and give presentations on Internet safety, DARE, cyber-bullying, law, drinking and driving, and Halloween safety. The downtown CSO works with seniors, the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Association, the Teen Resource Network and the crisis intervention team.
So far, only Surrey and Maple Ridge have CSOs, but other cities are now interested in the program.
Maple Ridge’s social planning advisory committee also supports the CSO model.
While CSOs aren’t cheap, they’re less expensive than regular RCMP officers, costing only about 80 per cent of a regular officer. RCMP officers with three years experience earn $78,000 a year, not counting overtime, which is paid at double time.
Coun. Craig Speirs said the district should have more CSOs. “The English bobby did quite well for many years.
“I really support this program. I’d like to see it ramped up.”
So far, there haven’t been any safety issues about an unarmed cop on patrol, said Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Dave Walsh.
He said the program is here to stay; the only issue to finalize is the training required to become one.
The three CSOs will get their permanent badges presented at a council meeting.