Beat cops, community-focused policing and increased integration are among the 2013 priorities for the Oak Bay Police Department.
Chief Constable Mark Fisher, with input from community groups, local agencies, department members and the general public, has developed a strategy which will guide the force for the next year.
Input came from meetings and a public survey last fall asking questions about current service and desired direction for policing in Oak Bay.
About 350 surveys were submitted.
“We received some great feedback from them, it was well worth doing it that way,” Fisher said. “(There was) a lot of value in what we heard from them.”
Oak Bay residents value having a community-focused police department, Fisher said.
“They place a lot of value on the ‘no call too small’ philosophy. … that a police officer does show up when they phone and … that they take the time to genuinely listen to the concerns and react to them.”
By increasing the emphasis on foot and bicycle patrols over the past couple of years, Fisher said the public indicated it feels more in touch with the police. This approach will continue and even more officers will be trained for bike patrols.
Officers will also expand a program where they go to different parts of the community and make themselves available to talk with residents about any concerns.
“The officers seem more approachable, just because they’re out of the cars,” Fisher said.
An area identified for improvement is building awareness of the regional integrated teams the department is aligned with, including the Regional Crime Unit and Integrated Road Safety Unit.
The department is also finalizing a partnership with the Vancouver Island Major Crime Unit, along with Saanich police department. The integrated unit focuses on murders and suspicious deaths.
“It’s important to not just stay within your own little borders,” Fisher said. “If we seek opportunities for integration, it helps us leverage not only our local expertise, but ensures that residents get value for the dollars they’re spending on policing.”
A long term goal for Fisher is getting a new building for the department. The current station has been in use since 1957 and was designed to house a force smaller than the current one. As the district revamps its Official Community Plan this year, Fisher is hoping to get the ball rolling for a new space.
A proposal for a new station will be developed this year by the department and the Oak Bay Police Board, and will be presented to council in 2014.
In terms of crime, a main focus this year will be elder crime, including elder abuse, both physical and financial. Police will be developing crime prevention presentations focused on fraud, along with tips for seniors. Officers will also receive training specifically related to crimes involving seniors, including learning about local agencies that can provide support and advice to vulnerable seniors.
Traffic safety is a constant priority and Fisher said it will continue to be. The department is starting a volunteer speed watch program, where residents will receive training on collecting speed information from problem spots. The program will start later this year.
Police will also be organizing more bike rodeos for young students and hold bike training rides to teach students how to safely cycle to school.
A school liaison officer will continue to teach crime and drug and alcohol educational programs to students. Fisher said there will be some focus given to students who try to self-medicate through emotional and mental health problems.
The full strategic plan will soon be available on the department’s website, at oakbay.ca/public-safety/police-department.