Council gives go-ahead to Block Watch program

The program is a “neighbours helping neighbours” approach.

The City of Grand Forks council has green lit a city Block Watch program after concerns about community safety have begun to garner significant interest at council and on social media.

RCMP Sgt. Jim Fenske appeared at the Nov. 27 regular meeting of council to speak to the RCMP-endorsed Block Watch program.

Block Watch operates on the premise that police cannot be everywhere, and encourages residents to be proactive in conversation and engagement with RCMP. It is a “neighbours helping neighbours” program that encourages resident to form a communication chain to watch out for each other.

City bylaw officer Bud Alcock spoke to the block watch program before Fenske spoke as a delegation.

“Block watch has been very effective in other communities,” Alcock said. Alcock will be the coordinator for the Block Watch program in the city.

Fenske said Block Watch has been effective in engaging citizens with police and creating overall safer communities, but also mentioned the Grand Forks Citizens on Patrol.

“We have a functioning COP, we are not opposed to engaging both and we need to make sure we are working together and not being adversarial,” Fenske said.

During discussion, councillors voiced their support for the program.

The next steps for the program will be “lengthy,” Alcock said.

“Next step is getting registered with the [Block Watch Society of BC] on behalf of the city, there is a small fee of $50 per year; then the recruitment of captains and co-captains and get their criminal checks, and getting them to recruit in their neighborhoods and training captains and co-captains,” he said. “A lot of it is word of mouth [and] door knocking.”

The Block Watch Society of BC provides support for the coordinator and help to get the program running, as well as educational material and signage.

Council voted to receive the information, voted to approve that Alcock become the block watch coordinator, and further that funding of approximately $1,000 for additional hours is approved for setting up the program and for his role. According to the motion, those funds are currently available in the bylaw budget for 2017.

The continuation of the program for 2018 is expected to cost $350-450 per month, plus an additional $100-200 in materials, meetings and advertising. According to the memo to council, those costs will be brought for council’s consideration during the 2018 budgeting process.

There will be a public Block Watch meeting on Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. at Community Futures.

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