Technology and manpower shortages contributed to the demise of Nanaimo’s community police stations, according to the RCMP’s spokesman.
Establishing positive relationships, through school liaison programs, bike patrol units or localized police offices, can help proactively deter crime, said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. Community police stations, set up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, were a way of getting police out of their vehicles and interacting with the public.
At one point Nanaimo had community police stations in Cedar, Southgate Mall, University Village Mall, Beban House, Woodgrove Centre and Oliver Woods Community Centre. It was also a time when Nanaimo’s crime rate was especially high.
“At that time our resourcing numbers were a little down and our file loads during that period, when [the stations] were running was quite significant…” O’Brien said. “The guys were basically run off their feet, going from file to file to file.”
The intention was to have one officer at each station per watch and the offices relied heavily on volunteers to man them.
“Community policing is often considered proactive. We know the benefits of it. We’ve reaped the benefits from it, but you also have to maintain that reactive force. You’ve got to keep those numbers up,” O’Brien said.
Computers in the stations weren’t secure either, making it impossible to work with sensitive files and e-mail communications. The systems could have been upgraded, but at considerable cost. Technological advancements ultimately saw secure mobile computers installed in patrol cars, said O’Brien.
Nanaimo’s community police stations started phasing out in 2009. The Cedar office was the last of them and closed in 2012.
The only satellite police office today is at Oliver Woods Community Centre, but it’s a remote office where members can securely access and work on files and is not a community policing station.
“They served their purpose for a while,” O’Brien said. “They were a great contact for individuals in the community.”