The Observer presents Hometown Heroes, a feature celebrating unsung heroes, individuals who go above and beyond for their community.
They watch and they listen!
Throughout the year, Salmon Arm Citizens Patrol (SACP) volunteers provide extra eyes and ears for the RCMP.
Members patrol areas of Salmon Arm and Canoe, check licences for stolen cars, set up radar-controlled speed watches and are now reporting the number of red-light runners at several intersections along the Trans-Canada Highway.
As well, they carry out ICBC security-focused programs, assist at community events by monitoring pedestrian crossings and manning traffic barricades, and take part in city-wide emergency response teams as needed.
“These people are very dedicated members and spend many hours helping to keep our city a safer place to live,” said Paula Weir, noting the group works closely with the Salmon Arm RCMP detachment, but stressing members are not wannabe police officers.
“We don’t hand out tickets and we are not recording licence plates. We have a list of stolen vehicles.”
Werner Mathys joined the group that has been in operation for more than 25 years in 2007. He has served as shift director and equipment director for most of his tenure with the group, is involved with training and goes out on four-hour shifts once or twice a week. He is on the SACP board and heads up the Speed Watch program, which runs from April through October.
Current president Stephen Lowry, who joined in February 2016, “has helped greatly and wears many hats,” said Weir.
Lowry has put his administrative skills as a former Ottawa school vice-principal to good use by upgrading bylaws, training and paperwork.
Knowing they wanted to retire in the B.C. Interior, Lowry and his wife checked out a several communities before choosing Salmon Arm.
As they drove along the highway into town, he spotted a sign advertising SACP but didn’t join right away.
“Within three or four weeks of being here, a poor woman with dementia went missing and one of our patrol members came looking for her,” he said. “I thought isn’t that a great community thing to do?”
A longtime volunteer in Ottawa, Lowry enjoys giving back. He has had two shows on local Radio CKVS, volunteers with Shuswap Immigration Services and says volunteering is a great way for newcomers to meet people.
Randy and Liana Yates agree. The couple has lived in Salmon Arm since 1983 and joined SACP in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Described as a “steady influence who take most of the group’s night shifts,” Liana says she and Randy worked as paid security at the 2010 Olympics.
The couple responded to an ad in the newspaper with the intention of keeping their security practice up to snuff, help the RCMP and “do some fun things at events.”
The couple normally takes their four-hour shifts from 7 to 11 p.m. or 8 p.m. to midnight.
“We’re mainly making sure there’s nobody hanging around, nothing happening in back alleys and go where there are neighbourhoods that are having problems,” she said. “We drive around looking out for anything suspicious and cover about 40 kilometres a night.”
Weir, Lowry and the Yates appreciate the respectful and helpful relationship members have with members of the Salmon Arm Detachment.
And the admiration is mutual.
“We try our best to support these people in every way possible, and my only regret is that we can’t support that great group more,” said Staff Sgt. Scott West, noting he expects a startup SACP in Blind Bay will be every bit as successful.
“It’s wonderful to have them out there. Their service allows me to dedicate resources in the most impactful way.”
Citizens’ Patrol members choose their own volunteer shifts, which can be at any time of the day or week. Speed Watch locations are requested by the RCMP and city hall. Volunteers simply report on the number of vehicles going over the speed limit in increments of 10 kilometres.
“It’s hard sometimes, because we do get a fair bit of flak, but lately we’ve been getting more pats on the back,” said Weir. “It’s nice to be recognized and nice to know people like what we are doing.”
If you know someone who is a Hometown Hero, please send their name, email, phone number and a brief write-up about them to email@example.com.