Blue Line

Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network

February 16, 2023  By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Feb. 16, 2023, Wakaw, Sask. – The `Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network’ is a crime prevention program that uses mass notification technology (Everbridge) to more effectively and efficiently communicate with participating residents, corporations and organizations. The initiative gives credit to the Rural Crime Watch program for its inception as it stems from the idea of the early Rural Crime Watch callouts, which used mass telephone calls to share information. The RCMP, Saskatchewan Government, SARM, SUMA and the FSIN all came together to support the development of the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network, which is not to be confused with the SaskAlert operated by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.

The SCWAN was first piloted in southern Saskatchewan in March 2019 and other areas of the province quickly expressed interest in the service. One month later the government of Saskatchewan announced the expansion into northern and central parts of the province. While it was promoted as province wide, for a while the service was restricted to just a few areas of the province, and after Covid hit in 2020 it seemed to drop off the public information radar. No one this reporter talked to could provide insight into why this happened. Once in 2021 the provincial government posted a press release encouraging people to sign up with the network, but there was no information saying that the coverage had been expanded.

Sgt. Von Niessen, Detachment Commander of the Wakaw RCMP shared that he had been informed that the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network is now available province-wide and that Wakaw and area are covered by the network. While working in North Battleford at his last posting, Sgt. Von Niessen said that he used the system heavily. “This is a fantastic tool. It’s good to have it here and I intend to use it.”

With the launch of the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network in 2019, the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police President Chief Rick Bourassa said, “The Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police supports the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network fully. Through this valuable program, police services and people in our communities are able to work together even more quickly and effectively to advance community safety and wellbeing across our province.” The new technology promotes the idea that ‘EVERYONE’ can make a difference; however, it has also been uniquely designed to support existing crime prevention programs and networks.

Policing in rural Saskatchewan can be a challenge with large coverage areas and understaffed detachments. We saw the importance of having the eyes of the community on the lookout in September 2022, in the aftermath of the tragedy which occurred on the James Smith Cree Nation. Once the alert was issued through SaskAlert, that Sanderson had stolen a truck at Wakaw, the residents of Wakaw, the RM of Fish Creek, and the RM of Hoodoo were all on high alert and the tips of sightings poured in enabling police to apprehend him. The Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory is designed to do the same that SaskAlert did, but it can also be used in less heinous crimes. Imagine that someone is spotted breaking into a cottage or a home. The witness calls 911 to report the crime and describe the suspect’s vehicle. Police go to the scene, but as is often the case the suspect is long gone. Using the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory sent directly from the RCMP, the description of the suspect’s vehicle can be immediately sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the area. People who receive the advisory can call police when they see the vehicle. This gives the police a better chance of catching the offender(s), sooner. The Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network, along with existing crime prevention programs, helps create the right environment and culture where everyone can contribute to and be a part of community safety. The presence and use of the network itself can send a strong message to would-be offenders that people are watching and that we all care about community safety.

The Everbridge Mass Notification system is used by frontline Police employees to send advisories to the public via text message, email, a Mobile App. and/or landline. Alerts or advisories can range from seeking the public’s help to solve or prevent crime to informing the public about a crime trend or recent incident as well as safety alerts. Community members must purposely sign up to receive these notifications and can sign up for alerts for only a specific area or for the whole province. Residents can download the app called “Everbridge Mobile App” from Google play or the Apple store. Advisories are generally only delivered during the typical business or working hours unless it is an emergency situation.

The vision is to build and maintain a robust and modern crime prevention network, one that effectively leverages today’s telecommunication and smartphone technology, to connect the police and other law enforcement more directly to the public. The network can be inclusive of all people and communities, because it is up to the people themselves to sign up for the Advisory Network.

– Wakaw Recorder

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