WATCH: Volunteers in bright yellow jackets have begun patrolling the downtown core in Port Alberni in hopes that their presence will deter criminals. Dean Stoltz has more.
They’re hard to miss as they walk the streets of downtown Port Alberni in their bright yellow Community Policing jackets.
Johanna Engelbrecht and Devin Cussry are two of about 30 Citizens on Patrol (COPS) volunteers trying to make the city safer at night and now during the day as well.
“Yeah there’s been a lot of thefts around Port Alberni lately,” said Cussry. “Anything we could do to help just as a visual aspect is a deterrent.”
“We are the eyes and the ears only so we will report it and I think it will deter them (criminals) from doing something that they’re not supposed to be doing,” added Engelbrecht.
The COPS program is run by the community policing section of the RCMP and the increased patrols are in response to rising crime stats.
“So crime stats have been on the rise and the citizens are concerned and so this is just us trying to help address that having extra eyes and ears because we can?t respond to something we don?t know is happening,” stated Corporal Amelia Hayden of the Port Alberni RCMP.
Local businesses say the patrols are a good idea.
“It?s very reassuring that they’re out there,” said Yvonne Rogers, owner of Boutique Belles Amies. “I think it stops people from doing something they were going to do if they see these people out on patrol with the bright yellow jackets. I mean it makes them think twice.”
“It’s very comforting to know that the yellow jackets are out there moving around in the neighbourhood,” said Gayle Stephen-Player of Gayle’s Fashions.
The crimes are generally related to vandalism or theft. Business owners say downtown is still a safe area.
“It?s crime of necessity whatever that necessity may be whether it be food or whatever the individuals needs. That?s why they?re committing these crimes. There?s no violent crime down here.” said Shawn Standley of Full of Beans Play Cafe.
The volunteers say they do it because they like contributing to a safer community.