Concerns rise over lack of policing in Port Alice

Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen addressed the issue at Port Alice Council

Two doctors from the Port Alice Health Centre are concerned over the lack of RCMP officers that are able to respond within Port Alice.

Dr. Dana Hubler and Dr. Ian MacKenzie wrote a letter to Port Alice Council expressing their thoughts on the subject.

“We have increasing concerns about the safety of our patients and our staff,” read the letter. “With the Port Alice RCMP officers working the majority of their shifts in Port Hardy, we in Port Alice are left with no reasonable response time for assistance.”

The letter concluded stating that “We strongly support the Village of Port Alice in their request for Port Alice RCMP officers to remain posted in, living and working in Port Alice. Without RCMP officers to respond to our calls for help in a timely fashion, we are not living in or working in a safe environment.”

Port Hardy Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen attended the Village of Port Alice Council Meeting on Nov. 8 to deliver the RCMP’s quarterly report for the village, addressing the concerns over policing in Port Alice.

Olsen said Port Alice received 35 files from the period of July 1 through Sept. 30. Of the 35 files, two were listed as assaults, where one of those assaults actually took place in Old Quatsino.

There was also one cause of disturbance, two files for mischief under $5,000, one false or abandoned 911, two Mental Health Acts, three moving violation tickets, five motor vehicle incidents over $5,000, two street checks and one missing persons.

There was also a stop in Port Alice with a seizure of cocaine, which was made in conjunction with the North Island Traffic Services and Integrated Road Safety Unit.

In comparison Port Hardy had 1,135 files opened in the same period of time.

“I’ve spent pretty much my whole budget this year because of overtime and that is through no fault of our own, just backfilling shortages,” said Olsen, explaining, “It’s affected Port Alice specifically, because your two members have not been on the road for a lengthy period of time.”

Olsen explained he’s spoken with the Port Alice Heath Centre about creating lockdown procedures to make sure everything is safe because, even with the two members living in Port Alice, you can’t always rely on them being in the community while on shift.

As the two RCMP officers who are currently posted in Port Alice are due to leave in 2018, Mayor Jan Allen noted that “we want to ensure that the postings remain as they are and that the two members live here.”

Olsen said he is currently making a business case for extra resources, but “there’s no decisions being made on Port Alice and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be down the road.”

He noted even with proactive policing there is only so much to do in Port Alice given the small population.

“It’s not a high crime area right now and hopefully it never will be,” said Olsen, adding, “It’s not a matter of us not coming, we will get here when we can and prioritize depending on the type of call.”

Olsen explained that “When that assault happened in Old Quatsino, we do what we have to do to mobilize and get a boat in the water.”

Olsen said one of the resourcing challenges he faces is that both Port Hardy and Port Alice are considered Isolated Limited Duration Postings, with Port Alice having a three-year posting limit and Port Hardy a four-year limit.

He said because officers need to clear a special medical process to be given an Isolated Limited Duration Posting, and because the process to sell a home and relocate takes time, it usually takes him six to eight months to replace someone once they leave.

“We appreciate your efforts – I know that you are working under not the best situation and I know we are being a bit of a squeaky wheel, but it’s our community and we want to see policing here,” said Coun. Marnie Chase.

Olsen responded, stating, “Port Alice is your community and rightfully you are interested in the public safety of the community as am I, but I have to work within the parameters that I am under, but I will do what I have to do to make sure you guys are safe.”

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