This is the Life: Creston citizens rise up in face of break-ins

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Some things in life are bad

They can really make you mad

Other things just make you swear and curse

When you’re chewing on life’s gristle

Don’t grumble, give a whistle

And this’ll help things turn out for the best, and

Always look on the bright side of life

Always look on the light side of life

—Monty Python


Proving that good things can come from bad situations, the response by a group of Creston citizens to a recent rash of break-ins to businesses, homes and even churches is heartening.

I’ve known RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Gollan long enough to predict that he would embrace the offer of civilians to help out by doing security patrols. No doubt he was disappointed last year when the volunteer Citizens on Patrol group disbanded.

Gollan’s decades as a police officer haven’t made him cynical about the community he serves, but they have helped hone a highly practical approach to his job.

In a meeting with volunteers last week, he welcomed the additional sets of eyes and ears that the patrols would offer as he encouraged them to re-establish the COPs organization.

In a perverse way, it was probably a good thing that another break-in was reported after police made an arrest of a suspect last week. Had he proven to be the only one involved in the 18 or more break-ins over the holiday season, it might have tempted at least some of the volunteers to step back, considering the problem to have been solved.

Gollan is the first one to say that police don’t make safe communities, but residents do. We have a 13-officer detachment, which might seem like a lot of police officers until one does the math. Those 13 people have to provide 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week coverage and it gets pretty thin when courses, holidays, sickness and injuries are factored in. Given the huge area that the Creston detachment covers — from Irishman Creek east of Yahk to Riondel, there are times when a quick response to an urgent situation simply isn’t possible.

So it comes as no surprise that Gollan and his second in command, Cpl. Charlotte Joa, seemed so pleased when 20 concerned citizens crowded into the coffee room last Monday. They knew full well that those same people could have chosen to sit back and complain about feeling that their property and sense of safety were being put in jeopardy by criminals. Instead, this group was organizing and co-operating with police in an effort to be part of the solution.

Gollan told the folks at the meeting that statistically Creston is among the safest communities in the province. So why would he welcome the surge of interest from this group? No doubt it is in part because the existence of groups like Citizens on Patrol makes safe communities even safer. When residents come together under banners like COPs and Block Watch it heightens the sense that we are all in this together, that we don’t simply sit back and point fingers when there is a crime problem.

And, like it or not, Creston does have crime problems, even if they are statistically small. We are among the poorest of communities in the province and poor people can get desperate, turning to crime when better opportunities don’t seem more appealing or available. Our population of elderly residents makes us more vulnerable to the criminal element. And the low crime rate makes us complacent, too. Read the weekly police report and you will learn that we tend to be pretty lax when it comes to common sense things like locking cars and homes.

The people who are volunteering to re-instate COPs and spend a few hours each week driving around to make patrols are to be applauded. They have seen a reason to be involved in the safety of their community and they are making the best possible response to what for many has been a lousy situation.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.