The Town of Gibsons has launched a Business Watch to help keep an extra eye on businesses that are closed or running on reduced hours.
Business Watch is a volunteer-based program, much like Neighbourhood Watch or Citizens on Patrol, that works with police to reduce crimes such as break-ins and vandalism.
In the release announcing the launch of the program, Mayor Bill Beamish said, “We also understand that the resources of the RCMP and our lone bylaw enforcement officer are limited. Our new Business Watch Program is intended to put additional eyes and ears into areas that may now be unusually quiet and therefore vulnerable to property crimes or mischief.”
Sunshine Coast RCMP Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam told Coast Reporter that under normal circumstances the local detachment would be directly involved in setting up programs like Business Watch or Citizens on Patrol, but in this case it’s a Town-run initiative with RCMP support.
“They’re doing all of it themselves. If we have some sort of outbreak or any type of issue, there’s no way we’d have the capacity to manage a team like that, so they’re doing it fully on their own.”
Hallam said although the Town will handle getting everything up and running, recruiting and organizing volunteers and administrative tasks, it would operate with the model used already by similar programs.
“[The volunteers] will be reporting to us when they go on shift. They will have a dedicated line where they can get hold of [the detachment],” she said, adding that in an emergency or crime in progress, the Business Watch volunteers would call 911.
“I think it’s going to be fantastic, and if it goes well I think it will be a way to segue into getting a more formalized Citizens on Patrol going again,” Hallam said.
Beamish said he hopes the Gibsons Business Watch will serve as a model for other communities.
At this point neither the District of Sechelt nor the Sechelt Downtown Business Association has announced plans for a similar program, although Hallam said RCMP are doing more evening patrols through downtown Sechelt with a focus on alleys and areas around businesses.
According to Hallam, police haven’t seen any increase in crimes against businesses, or any general uptick, since measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 kicked in.
Gibsons is now looking for volunteers for the Business Watch, which will be made up of groups of two patrolling the town in their vehicles. They must be at least 19 years of age, not under investigation by any police force, hold a valid B.C. driver’s licence if they’ll be acting as driver during the patrols, and agree to a criminal record check.
For more information visit www.gibsons.ca/gibsons-business-watch.