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Dawson Creek welcomes new RCMP commander

July 10, 2023  By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter


July 10, 2023, Dawson Creek, B.C. – Staff Sgt. Rob Hughes is a new face to Dawson Creek, and is ready to support the community as the latest detachment commander.

Formally introducing himself to city council at their June 26 meeting, Hughes laid out his priorities for policing in Dawson Creek. Hughes replaces Staff Sgt. Damon Werell, who’s moved on to a new post, and served as the detachment commander in Mile Zero since 2018.

Hughes left depot in 2004 and said he’s enjoyed a long career in front-line policing, first in Richmond, followed by Langley, Surrey, Newton, and finally Princeton for the past four and a half years, where he was promoted to commander of the ten-person detachment.

“Had some struggles that we made leaps and bounds with, in the community,” said Hughes. “When I left there, the police relationship was, I think, as good as it could possibly be. So, we’re kind of hoping to do that again here.”

“Everything can always be better. That’s my goal coming here, is to draw on past experiences and past roles, and address the needs of the community and hopefully make some changes,” he added.

Calls for service are slightly up this year at 3,497 versus 3,415 last year, said Hughes, not a drastic increase. However, auto theft remains a top concern for RCMP and residents in Dawson Creek, with 40 calls around this time last year, and 46 this year.

“This one of the things that we need to address here as the police, auto thefts are kind of out of control,” said Hughes, noting numbers typically spike whenever offenders are released from jail.

“While those people are in jail, we watch our numbers crash and go down. And when they get out, the numbers spike, of course,” said Hughes.

When asked by council if local RCMP have enough resources to keep an eye on re-offenders and those on parole, Hughes said resourcing is always a challenge for any detachment, with Dawson Creek’s caseload higher than the provincial average.

“We would always like to have more police officers, but that comes at the expense of the community. So, we have to try and find that balance, I haven’t had a chance to delve too deep into what that balance is, or how far we’re off that balance, or how close we are to it,” said Hughes.

Bail reform also hasn’t been to public satisfaction, admitted Hughes, but said the police do their best under the current legislation, working as a team with crown council and the judicial system.

“We do our job as best we can to supply the investigative packages to crown council, and then crown council makes their charge assessment, put charges forward, and then it’s up to the judicial system to impose penalties or release conditions,” Hughes said.

A bait car to combat auto theft has been brought to Dawson Creek to be used by RCMP, with the previous bait car being sent to the Lower Mainland for repairs.

Hughes said he also wants to support groups like Citizens on Patrol (COP) and will be meeting with several organizations to see where the RCMP can help resident-driven initiatives, noting the rural crime watch groups are actively recruiting and always need new members.

Mental health calls are another priority for Hughes, who’s restarted monthly meetings with the local hospital to better address repeat clients being brought to the ER, where they are either turned away or leave due to long wait times.

Impaired driving has also been a concern since Hughes took his new post, and hopes to curb the 6.7 percent increase of immediate roadside prohibitions over last year.

“While I am impressed with our men and women that are out getting these files, and a lot of these are self-generated, the impaireds, it’s disturbing to see any impaired driving charges increasing,” he said, noting there’s an opportunity to raise public awareness over the issue.

A bike patrol for visibility is one request from residents, humorously asked councillor Jerimy Earl, inquiring if it’s still being considered by RCMP.

Two members are bike-trained, said Hughes, noting it was never a question of ability, the police are more than capable of riding bikes, but they need to be officially trained and cleared as part of their policy.

“Anything with the RCMP, whether it be ATVs or snowmobiles, side by sides, bicycles, any of our equipment, there is approved training before, and protocols before we are allowed to undertake patrols or utilize that equipment,” said Hughes.

One of their local officers has offered to become a trainer, and would be able to train the rest of the detachment, added Hughes.

– Alaska Highway News


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