Small, rural communities can provide a certain sense of security.
Residents tend to know their neighbours, know who they can turn to for a lending hand or help in times of trouble. The very remoteness of their villages and hamlets can serve to draw those residents closer together.
That very remoteness can also serve to isolate, however, a factor that has some residents in Port Alice understandably nervous in the wake of last week’s announcement that the duties of policing the village would shift to the Port Hardy RCMP detachment.
Residents were assured the Port Alice RCMP office would remain open, but its staffed hours will be reduced. They were assured the two officers currently residing in the community would not be required to move away. But there was nothing in the announcement to assure they would not do so.
The positives noted in the announcement are commendable: there will be a greater RCMP presence on the roads; savings will be realized from not paying overtime on call-outs of local officers on their off-duty hours.
But on certain high-risk calls, multiple officers are required to respond. And VIHA staff working or on-call 24/7 at the health centre — sometimes alone — could conceivably require security assistance with violent or potentially violent patients.
Will officers be available to respond promptly? Or will a 35-45 minute drive over twisting, climbing roads lie between the call and the arrival of help?
Other questions remain about what this change of staffing will mean to residents of Port Alice. The concerns are great enough that North Island MLA Claire Trevena has written an open letter to Minister of Public Safety Shirley Bond asking they be addressed.
It is only right that the RCMP provide answers. The choice is between providing a little security or leaving citizens feeling insecure.