Burns Lake could soon have a new Citizens on Patrol group, according to Burns Lake Band Chief Dan George.
The community used to have a Citizens on Patrol Society (COPS), but it was dismantled after years of struggling to recruit new members.
The Burns Lake Band hopes to start a new COPS to increase community safety when Coastal GasLink’s work camp, located just south of Burns Lake, is at peak occupancy, said George.
The 21-hectare 7 Mile Road Lodge, which will house up to 600 workers at peak occupancy, will see its first occupants by the end of January.
George plans to gather support for the proposed COPS when the Village of Burns Lake and surrounding First Nations meet in mid-February at the Community to Community Forum, an event that aims to improve cooperation and relations between them.
The former Burns Lake COPS — considered the eyes and ears of the RCMP — was dismantled in 2018 by its remaining four members. Formed in the 1990s, the group had 15 to 20 volunteer members at one point. However, it progressively lost members over the years, with three quitting just in 2017.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle to keep that going,” said former COPS president Kelsey Hanson in the fall of 2018. “We can’t do it with the four of us.”
The group contributed to the Lakes District by conducting cellphone and speed watches, reporting criminal activity to the RCMP and volunteering their time to support local events.
George said he hopes the provincial government will provide funding for a new COPS given the community will likely be impacted by the impending influx of workers.
This is a situation already seen in Terrace, according to city officials, who say they’re experiencing increased demands for civic and other services arising from the $40 billion Kitimat LNG project.
Terrace RCMP reported an 18 per cent increase in calls during the third quarter of 2019, with a 37 per cent increase in offences against people and property, drug offences and motor vehicle offences.
The Terrace Fire Department has seen a 35 per cent increase in calls, a nine per cent increase in ambulance services, and a 33 per cent increase in urgent calls.
Hope Latham, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said Coastal GasLink is required to mitigate potential adverse effects — including those related to community wellness and safety — as construction occurs on the pipeline.
But Latham said the province has supported programs similar to Citizens on Patrol in the past.
“We will be attentive to the developments across pipeline’s corridor, and we will ensure safety remains a top priority as we oversee the implementation of Coastal GasLink’s mitigation efforts,” added Latham.
—With files from Brittany Gervais