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Citizens on Patrol reaches milestone anniversary

Wilkie Citizens on Patrol Program celebrates 20 years with new volunteers joining.
Most of the businesses in Wilkie proudly display Citizen on Patrol Program signs.

WILKIE – The Wilkie Citizens on Patrol Program (COP) celebrated its 20th anniversary recently, with the future of the program looking promising.

George Benson, who has been a member for 17 years, said the program was brought to Wilkie to help with the increase in crime around the community.

The group started with 12 members with a meeting between Wilkie town officials and the local RCMP in November 2003. There had been an increase in break and enters, vehicle thefts and other crimes and citizens of Wilkie were ready to take a stand.

“The town council and RCMP were on board with bringing the program to the community. Initially, the RCMP equipped the program with police radios which made it easier to get in touch with the detachment when needed,” said Benson.

The town made a financial contribution to the program to assist with the cost of applications and other administrative costs. Organizers designed signs, which were given to local businesses for a one-time donation. According to Benson, all but one business purchased a sign.

“Our volunteer numbers have been up and down over the years, especially during the pandemic,” said Benson. Although he was not allowed to disclose the number of members they currently have, he was able to say that there have been new members who have joined over the past year.

Twenty years later, the program is still going strong. SGI Canada became a major sponsor in 2006. Benson said volunteers have been encountering more crimes involving drugs than before.

“Drugs are the biggest concern in our community, along with vehicles speeding and doing stunts. The town also has a lot of people that like to walk during the evenings and at night, which can be concerning to some residents,” he added.

It was during a meeting in February that the program was recognized for its 20th anniversary. In attendance were Mayor David Zeigler, Sgt. Grant Rusk, Paul Robertson (vice-chair), Cst. William Rompre and one volunteer who has been with the program since its inception.

With the program growing in numbers throughout the province, there is a chance that a provincial organization may be in the works.

“Alberta has a great provincial organization and strong numbers throughout the province and Saskatchewan has taken note. There is a meeting in Saskatoon on April 28 to discuss the possibility of expanding the program,” said Benson.

While funds were scarce during the pandemic, Benson is hopeful the accounts will be replenished this year.

“We will be looking at doing some fundraising with the help of a local business. It will help with expanding the patrol kit,” explained Benson.

Benson says he believes the program will continue for another 20 years.

“There are still many concerns in town so as long as we are a deterrent to those who are committing the crimes, then we are happy to keep going. The program is happy to continue to be the eyes and ears for the RCMP.”