COMMUNITY PARTNERS - The Lacombe Community Watch Association is looking to increase awareness and expand neighbourhood-based programs in the City. From left are Scott Rhodes (COPS/board member)

Creating a safer community through crime prevention

Lacombe Community Watch Association expands reach in City

A local community group is looking to put a dent in crime in the city and create a safer community.

Formed last year, the Lacombe Community Watch Association (LCWA) is looking to expand awareness within the community and welcome in new volunteers.

The group made up of dedicated citizen volunteers is the parent organization of three definitive programs in the city Citizens on Patrol (COPS), Block Parent and Neighbourhood Watch.

LCWA was started early last year, based off the vision of former President Ed L’Ecluse.

“He was very passionate about community safety and was looking at what type of crime watch or safety initiatives would be appropriate for Lacombe,” said Debbi Gallant, LCWA vice president.

From this idea, a community meeting was held with over 30 people in attendance. With a noted interest from the community and an evident need, the group expanded, forming an executive board of nine and a total of around 40 passionate volunteer citizens.

LCWA is closely affiliated with the Lacombe Police Service (LPS) with a dedicated liaison who works between the two organizations.

“We have a similar mandate community safety,” said Gallant. “It’s not only on the shoulders of the police. It’s up to every citizen to ensure the safety of their community.”

COPS is the main program run through the organization that works closest with the LPS. COPS is essentially a community-based crime prevention program where citizens provide a presence in the community through observation, documentation and reporting.

“We don’t step into a role where we are arresting people or are doing the police’s job,” noted Gallant. “We are, in effect, the eyes and ears of the police.”

Groups of two patrol the community at various times of day by vehicle, on foot or by bicycle. Volunteers are screened, complete a criminal record check and have a photo ID card. COPS volunteers often patrol ‘trouble’ spots in the community or act as an extra set of eyes throughout weekends.

After being absent for well over a decade, the Block Parent program has returned to the community, also managed under LCWA. For those unfamiliar with the program, Block Parents are responsible adult volunteers who care for the well-being of children and others in the community by offering their homes as a temporary refuge in an emergency situation.

When they are available to provide assistance, Block Parents place their distinct red and white sign in the window of their home, indicating to children, seniors and others that if they need help or are lost, they can come there as a safe place.

“We have about 12 Block Parents now which is great and more are on the way,” said Gallant.

As for all volunteers with the LCWA, Block Parents are screened, complete a criminal record check and then complete a home interview before they receive their sign.

“We are doing our due diligence to make sure that we have appropriate people in our organization,” said Gallant. “We are always looking for committed, passionate people in the community who want to come on board and join in any part of this.”

Neighbourhood Watch is a program that is still at a development stage, with the group crafting a vision and identifying needs within the community.

“It’s basically getting neighbours to get to know each other, get connected, pay attention to what is going on in their own neighbourhoods,” explained Gallant.

LCWA and the three offered programs are gaining traction in the community as citizens are noting the importance of being connected and the benefit of watching out for each other.

“Everybody in the community wants to live in a safe community,” said Gallant. “Every citizen has a responsibility in that, whether it’s in their own home or their own neighbourhood no community is immune to crime. It impacts everyone in the community. The best deterrent to crime is prevention.”

LCWA will be holding a general meeting, open to the public on Wednesday, March 9th at the Lacombe Fire Hall.

“We will do board elections again and the public is invited to come out,” said Gallant. “It’s at the back door of the fire hall at 7 p.m.”

To become a volunteer or for more information on the organization, email lacombecommunitywatch@gmail.com.

“Community partnership is the motto of the LPS and seeing the programs of the LCWA come to life puts that motto into action,” said LPS Chief Steve Murray in a press release. “I would personally like to thank the executive board of the LCWA and our liaison with the group, Constable Vaughan Bleasdale, for all their hard work and dedication towards keeping Lacombe safe.”

news@lacombeexpress.com