People who live, work, shop or visit downtown have a reason to feel a little safer these days.

According to RCMP Staff Sergeant Alexander Laporte, second in command at the Yellowknife detachment, there were 73 “visibility patrols” in the downtown core in October by officers on foot.
That number was revealed to city councillors at Monday’s Municipal Services Committee meeting.

Laporte said visibility patrols have increased in number throughout the year. He said there were just seven patrols conducted in April, 22 in June, 30 in July, 55 in August and 61 in September.

“It goes to show the commitment of the Yellowknife RCMP detachment to the city and the public’s priorities. We’re committed to our efforts and all the social initiatives that are in place such as
the sobering centre and the outreach van,”  Laporte said.

RCMP Const. Francesca Bechard, centre and partner Const. Andrew Moore engage with some folks behind the Safe Harbour day Shelter on Wednesday afternoon. The Mounties say they have dramatically increased their visibility foot patrols downtown, with 73 of them conducted last month.John McFadden/NNSL photo

“(Those initiatives) are allowing our police officers to concentrate on new initiatives, priorities and police
work.”

The visibility patrols are mainly done on foot, allowing members to engage with the public, said Laporte.

“Members are visiting places, walking through the alleys, walking on the sidewalks talking to people,” said Laporte. “Visibility and proximity of RCMP members to the community they police are part of the strategy in meeting the police priorities of the City of Yellowknife.”

Practising community policing

Laporte went on to say that the downtown patrols create an opportunity for RCMP members to practice
good community policing skills and gives the public an avenue to meet Mounties in circumstances where there is not necessarily an immediate need for police interaction.

“The patrols may occur on a planned basis, or could be conducted during a member’s travels through the city of Yellowknife,” said Laporte.

To this end, patrols may be conducted by a single member or by teams, depending on the shift, the schedule, the amount of members on duty and other operational police duty requirements.

“RCMP members in the NWT and Yellowknife are aware of this policy and together with their colleagues and supervisors work to ensure members do not respond alone to violent calls.”

RCMP members conducting visibility patrols are interacting with the community, whether they are just saying hello, or have noticed something that falls within their policing duties, Laporte said.

He added patrols increase the opportunity for members to notice activities that may require further investigation, but is not the only focus of the patrols.

“The patrols take place as time permits, again given a variety of factors. They are likely to take place during regular business hours as there are more persons commuting on the streets of Yellowknife,” Laporte said.

Coun. Adrian Bell said he saw officers out on foot patrol last week and recalls seeing them out at least twice this past summer. He added it is his understanding some of the patrols can be as short as ten
minutes.

“So it’s hard to be sure a person would even notice the increase (in foot patrols). For me, the true test of effectiveness would be whether or not downtown residents, shoppers, business owners and workers are reporting improvements in the downtown  atmosphere,” Bell stated in an e-mail.

“So far I haven’t heard anything from the public but I’m eager to see if these increased patrol levels are enough to make a difference, or (are) still too infrequent.”


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