RCMP reached out to Hedley residents recently to discuss their concerns about crime that centre on an alleged drug house where a shooting occurred in October.
Sergeant Rob Hughes and Constable Keith Rogers ran a public forum December 19, drawing approximately 70 people to the Hedley community club.
“My purpose in being here is to begin a dialogue with the community,” Hughes told the crowd. “We’re not going to attack particular individuals or dwellings. I want the police to have a constructive relationship with the people of this community. ”
However residents repeatedly returned to the issue of the alleged drug house.
“If drugs are being sold, it means there is a market,” said Hughes. “The users need help, and the community can get involved in that.”
Hughes emphasized that police cannot conduct a search or make an arrest on the basis of an anonymous complaint.
“The benchmark to get a search warrant is very, very high,” he said. “We can’t just target a person because the community is mad at them. Often when a complaint is called in, there is an unwillingness to provide a name and address, make a statement, or appear in court to support the complaint.”
One man suggested someone attempt to purchase drugs as a way of providing police with evidence.
“That’s a dangerous idea. It could put your life at risk. Let’s get a good relationship between this community and the police and work together.”
Residents were encouraged to call police and not confuse a legitimate report with making a post on Facebook.
“We need you to call in when you have a concern. We have seven officers with a very large territory to patrol and protect. Statistics determine how many officers the province assigns to a detachment. Your calls give the province the statistical information required to assure you receive the attention you want and need.”
Later Hughes told The Spotlight that so far this year the Princeton detachment has received 305 calls for service from the community of 240 residents. Less than 25 per cent of those have been for criminal code investigations, while others range from parking to wildlife complaints.
Hughes said he felt the meeting was a positive step in improving communication between police and residents, and a follow up meeting is in the planning stages.
With files from Art Martens