Kwanlin Dün community safety officer Elias Park gets ready to begin another day patrolling the streets of Whitehorse’s McIntyre subdivision. Park and two other safety officers were hired earlier this year as part of a pilot program to address safety concerns in the neighbourhood. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC) It’s a cold morning in Whitehorse’s McIntyre subdivision. Kwanlin Dün safety officers begin the day with a morning meeting in the kitchen at their office, a recently renovated house in the area.
The ice and snow on their vehicle windows has been scraped off. Two of the safety officers are quickly briefed and head out to patrol the streets of the community.
With winter setting in, the streets are a little quieter.
"The activity outdoors is kind of slowing down, but our activity is kind of picking up since we are trying to be more proactive in the community — to make sure everybody is safe and at home," said Elias Park, the team leader of the program.
"Early hours in the morning, occasionally you get people walking around that don’t know where they want to go, or have a place to stay." ‘Our activity is kind of picking up since we are trying to be more proactive in the community — to make sure everybody is safe and at home,’ said Park (right), seen here with lands steward Tyler O’Brien. (Mike Rudyk/CBC) The Kwanlin Dün First Nation launched its new Community Safety Program earlier this year, with Park and Jesse Ryder hired as community safety officers, and Tyler O’Brien hired as a lands steward.
The officers are meant to be a first point of contact for Kwanlin Dün citizens living in the McIntyre subdivision. The idea was to have officers patrol the streets and, on occasion, work with the RCMP, Whitehorse bylaw officers, or Yukon conservation officers (for example, if there are wildlife concerns, such as roaming wolves or bears).
Park says it’s about making sure people feel safe in their community.
Sometimes, that means dealing with people who have had too much to drink. Sometimes the officers simply help those people get home. Other times, the focus is on keeping them out of trouble. ‘The first person that is going to talk to you’
The job often requires some negotiating skills.
"We show up at a party, maybe it’s a noise complaint. I guess that’s usually what it starts out as. Most of the time people are compliant," Park said.
"For the times that they are not, we remind them that we are the first person that is going to talk to you, so this is essentially your warning."
Park says the patrols serve another purpose — they let drug dealers in the community know they’re being watched. The officers’ patrol vehicles are designed to be highly visible in the community. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC) "Suspicious activity — you know, unusual persons at somebody’s address, or a car parked out that shouldn’t be or we haven’t seen before — we respond to those, and just see what those people are doing at that address," he said.
"In a way, we are being really nosy, but at the same time we are kind of detouring people from doing illegal activities." Program is working, says coordinator
The coordinator of the safety officer program says the patrols seem to be working. She says people in the community are feeling safer.
"We find that, [from] talking to the elders, talking to the youth, talking to the citizens of the community. You know, they are just so happy about having the community safety officers," said Gina Nagano. Residents ‘feel very safe and grounded, you know, knowing that [officers] are out […]
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