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Dedicated traffic unit will operate out of Estevan

Estevan will soon be home to a dedicated traffic services unit of the RCMP.

Estevan will soon be home to a dedicated traffic services unit of the RCMP.

That news was delivered last week by RCMP Inspector Andy Landers of Regina who was speaking with The Mercury in response to questions raised by a recent press release issued by the government of Saskatchewan regarding the placement of two more RCMP constables in the Estevan area.

Local RCMP detachment sergeant Daryl Milo said he welcomed the additional personnel, even though they will be dispatched by Regina's offices, not the local detachment. Their presence on area highways should alleviate some of the immediate concerns area residents have been airing for a few years now.

"Community officials in every town and village in our district have talked about speeding and other highway matters as their major problem areas, so this will help," said Milo.

The new traffic services unit will consist of three constables at first, with two of them being assigned as a direct result of the 30 new policing positions funded by the provincial government in its 2011-12 budget. Another member from the Weyburn area highway detail will be assigned to the Estevan unit and Corporal Jeff Burnett, currently serving in Fernie, B.C., is being assigned to the local detachment later this year, to serve as a collision analyst.

"A collision analyst specializes in the technical aspects of collision incidents and adds to the efficiency of the investigation," said Landers.

"Due to the serious collisions and the intense traffic flows on the highways around there, the components of this new unit started to come together a couple of months ago," Landers added.

The first stage of implementing this new unit could take until the end of this year or even into the first part of 2012, said the inspector since the positions have to be advertised and applied for through the RCMP's internal network. The one position from Weyburn is currently vacated which will leave that detachment with a three-person traffic squad.

"That's what we'll have for now, but hopefully we can increase the Estevan unit further. For now, the unit will report directly to Regina, to me, but they will work with the local detachment personnel of course. They will be a flexible team, able to move their resources around to respond to current driving behaviours. They'll be closer to the traffic action. We're identifying who those officers will be and putting them in place, could take a few months," said Landers.

The good news is that the operating budget has been assured, Landers added.

"We have identified the issues and the sheer volume of traffic in the Estevan area warrants this decision. There is more traffic, more money, and that brings out the people and their playthings if you will, so that means we need to bolster our presence in the southeast and we're trying to make this a strategic move. We've talked about it for some time and for sure we wished we could have acted sooner, but we're doing it now and we expect this will increase road safety in the region," Landers said.

With the approval of funding for 30 more positions around the province, D.F. "Yogi" Huyghebaert, Minister of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing, said "in choosing the communities where new police positions would be located, we looked at historical crime rates as well as initiatives in place to help combat criminal activity."

He noted that with the arrival of 30 more police officers, the government has delivered on its promise of putting 120 more police officers on the streets and highways within the four-year mandate.

The total investment in 120 new police officers has taken up $14.3 million in the governmental budget with 76 RCMP positions and 44 municipal police positions allocated.

Out of the recent allocation, three new policing positions are being opened in North Battleford, two each in Yorkton, Meadow Lake and Estevan and one each in Weyburn and Moose Jaw.

Estevan Police Service also benefitted from the same project initiative last year with the addition of a constable to the municipal force.

The positions also support specialized crime-fighting activities such as combined forces special enforcement units (CFSEU), the Internet Child Exploitation (ICF) Unit and the Northern Drug Strategy that are comprised of both municipal police and RCMP.

Milo said the local detachment recently welcomed a new member to the regular investigative team, filling out the local roster to a total of five officers, allowing them to move forward on a number of files and policing activities that were restricted in the past few years due to lack of personnel.

"The current members were all fairly new last year, but they've moved forward quickly. They gained a lot of experience over a short period of time. You certainly get that if you're assigned here," he said. "But already it's been a better situation this summer than it was last summer in terms of work details, just having that extra person available and on call when they're needed, is a big help."

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