BANFF – A new report and results from a public survey will aim to help the Banff RCMP better communicate with the public and focus on proactive policing.
The Town of Banff and the Banff RCMP released a 57-page public report highlighting comments and feedback received in a survey between April 5 and May 6.
The survey was completed by 219 residents after the Banff RCMP reached out to the community in April to gain information on how best to locate their resources for proactive policing and communicating with the public.
“It helps us understand what is important to the community and what they're seeing as issues that affect their daily lives,” Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr, the Banff RCMP detachment commander, said. “We won’t be changing our response to calls for service as they come in, but it will help along the lines of our proactive policing and interacting with town residents.”
Buxton-Carr said the detachment always aims to have a strong connection with the Town and its residents, but the survey provides a better picture of what may be succeeding or where they could improve.
A large aspect was communicating with residents, which led to the creation of a new Facebook page that will allow people to hear from the local police, but also the police to reach out to the community.
In hearing from the public, the police can receive suggestions when they can better interact with the public to improve and build on existing relationships.
In Alberta, the RCMP are run out of Edmonton, who also control the social media flow. But in a new pilot project, the Banff RCMP will have their own social media page, which will assist in the police hearing from locals and vice versa.
“I think a big part of it is the understanding. They’ll see what we're doing, and get a bit of an idea of the operations and they’ll get a bit of an idea of some of the pieces we're trying to do to connect, whether it's public relations or public engagement, Buxton-Carr said.
“As for what we will learn from the public, we'll get a better understanding of what's landing with the public. I'm sure there'll be suggestions of what more we can do, and that's one thing I hope from the community that there's some interactivity to it. Instead of just reading the post, if they think there's something better we can be doing to inform the public, I hope to hear from people. The main way we're going to improve and learn is if we hear from them directly.”
RCMP detachments set annual policing priorities and regularly seek input from the communities they’re stationed in. They work with local, provincial and national governments with the goal of maintaining safe and secure communities.
In all communities, crime is a focus, particularly when it comes to making a safe place to live. Despite being one of the most scenic places in Canada, Banff isn’t immune to crime as people flock from across the world to both live and visit the mountain town.
According to Statistics Canada, violent crimes in Banff were down to 116 last year after being at 194 in 2019, compared to 125 in 2018, 147 in 2017, 158 in 2016 and 146 in 2015.
Total criminal code violations, excluding traffic offences, were 632 in 2020, dropping from 995 in 2019 and 861 in 2018. There were 919 in 2017, with 1,103 violations in 2016 and 1,085 offences in 2015.
Statistics Canada reported 116 violent crimes, with 40 leading to confirmed charges last year. The number was a reduction from 194 in 2019 and and the 125 in 2018.
The survey found concerns for COVID-19, traffic issues and nighttime safety concerns were the highest ranking comments affecting the quality of life for Banff residents, while an increase in community outreach and traffic enforcement was also the highest ranked for proactive policing measures.
Survey participants suggested additional meetings, events and use of social media would help ongoing communications with the public as well as additional crime statistics would garner public interest.
All comments received were also included in the report.
Buxton-Carr said the survey also helped with ways to connect with the public, which will see the detachment launch more face-to-face interactions in places such as a coffee shop in the coming months.
“I think in relation to our role as a fairly busy centre for visitor activity is the importance of people just seeing us and getting to know us. That’s been one of our greatest challenges throughout the years is the ability for people to see us as opposed to just seeing a police car drive by and to actually get to know the officers,” he said. “It’s very challenging when they're usually on their way to do something, but visibility is something we’re going to work in.
“There were a few takeaways of just how much people want to not only see us, but actually want to know more about us. That’ll be the challenge for us is how can we get people to know more about what we do and feel comfortable interacting with us. Police are very much a topic of conversation on where we fit into society and how we can be productive and seen as a service agency rather than an agency where people are hesitant. … It was rewarding to see that the people, despite some negative things they may have seen throughout the world, that people will say we want to know you.”