“Over the more than four years that I’ve been here, break-ins and thefts from vehicles have increased the most. They’re becoming a significant problem.”
So says Sgt. Michel Grondin, on the eve of his departure as Detachment Commander of the Ashcroft RCMP detachment, when asked about the biggest change he’s seen during his time here. The issue will, he thinks, have to take priority over some other areas the police concentrate on, but he urges the public to take more responsibility.
“There are too many opportunities for people to enter homes that aren’t locked. We need to educate members of the community to be more preventative. We think we live in a fairly peaceful, law-abiding community, but there are people out there who don’t mind victimizing others.”
While residential and vehicular break-ins have been more common in Cache Creek, he notes that break-ins at businesses have been more prevalent in Ashcroft, possibly due to its more isolated location. “Business owners need to consider the use of alarms, and need to check with different companies to find the best solution.” When it’s noted that many alarms are tied in to phone lines, which thieves often cut before breaking in, Grondin points out that some systems will trigger an alarm if the phone line is cut. It costs more, he adds, but “some systems are fail-proof.”
Video surveillance is another effective tool, he says. “You don’t need a tremendous number of cameras; they just need to be strategically placed.”
Grondin has seen a lot; not just in his time in Ashcroft, but during his 35 years on the Force. A framed certificate on the wall behind his desk is a Médaille de l’ancienneté, or long-service award, and Grondin smiles when it’s pointed out, noting that it’s exclusively in French. “I can always tell where documents come from,” he says with a grin. “If it’s in English it’s from E Division [B.C.], and if it’s in French it’s from Ottawa.”
He’ll be going to Kamloops as a Watch Commander, and with a promotion to Staff Sergeant, but it’s not without regret that he’s leaving Ashcroft. “I’ve had a very good experience here as far as policing goes,” he says. “Because of my job here I got to meet a lot of people who have a vested interest in the community doing well. I got to work with them to make this a better place to be, and it’s always enjoyable to do that. My work here has been very much connected to everything else we do in the community.”
During his time here, Grondin and the members under him have worked to reduce drug-and alcohol-related calls for service; increase impaired driving enforcement; reduce domestic violence complaints;, identify vulnerable people in the community who need assistance; partner with organizations interested in youth safety; and reduce incidents of violence against the person.
He says that the majority of the people in the area have been very supportive of what he, and the other members of the detachment, do as a police force, and that new members coming into Ashcroft welcome that support.
He stresses that he could not have done this alone. “My wife Michelle is a huge support. She worked in the community [as a nurse with the Ashcroft Indian Band and in Home Support through the Ashcroft Hospital] and really enjoyed her work.
“The two of us had a good time here. We’re happy to move on to other things, but it’s difficult to move after more than four years in one place. It’s a bittersweet move, to leave the people we’ve made connections with.”