Westlock RCMP Const. Jim Jimmo will be out on the county roads full time as he has been selected to fill the enhanced policing position with the county.
Council approved creating the position through a series of meetings last spring. This position comes with a price tag of roughly $130,000 per year, which includes salary and other benefits.
Jimmo has 28 years experience with the RCMP, 14 of which have been spent with the Westlock detachment, and he said he is looking forward to working specifically with the county.
“I really enjoy working in the county,” he said. “I like the rural area.”
His first day in the new position, which deals strictly with county concerns, was on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
“He is dedicated to working in the county, therefore, he should have unfettered time … to be out there (and) visible in a marked police vehicle,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Clayton.
He said that the detachment gets complaints from county residents as well as county councillors “all the time” expressing concern over not seeing police patrolling on the gravel roads.
“People in Vimy think that the police have forgotten about them, but in any of these hamlets in the area, we go there when we’re needed and we go there if we have time and we happen to be nearby,” Clayton said, adding that with the new position, Jimmo will be spending between six to eight hours a day on the gravel roads.
During these patrols, Jimmo will also be tasked with issuing tickets.
Although this makes some money for the county, reeve Charles Navratil said it is important that the right message goes out.
“Fines do need to be handed out,” he said. “But we want education as much as we want fines.”
Coun. Ron Zadunayski agreed, adding, “It’s not a revenue generator, that’s not the purpose of it.”
Jimmo said he will be spending a lot of his time visiting the different hamlets in the county as well as interacting with the local residents, which is something Zadunayski said is necessary.
“I’d like to see communication with the people. Like, if you’re going through Vimy and you see people on the street, just speak to them,” he said, adding it is a “neighbourly kind of way” that is appreciated by locals.
“If I’m driving down a gravel road and someone’s taking some equipment into a field, if they have time to talk, I’ll stop and talk to them. That’s why I joined the RCMP, because I like the rural police,” Jimmo said.
Coun. Mike Cook suggested he get involved with the monthly county newsletter and provide tips to rate payers on various ways to protect themselves, which is something Jimmo said he would get involved in.
Councillors said they look forward to having Jimmo more involved in the county with many expressing appreciation that he took on the job.
“I really appreciated that we have someone that’s going to come and work for us that’s been in the area for 14 years,” said Navratil.
“It’s a real advantage to us.”
Being familiar with the area also means Jimmo is familiar with the area’s problems, which is a benefit to the county as certain crimes are on the rise.
During the Nov. 8 meeting, Clayton briefed county council on the crime statistics for this quarter, which showed a 26.1 per cent increase in assaults this year compared to last year at this time. Also on the rise was the number of break and enters, which is up from 66 at this time last year to 81 as of the end of September.
Another concern for RCMP is the number of false or abandoned 911 calls they receive, which accounts for roughly half of the calls RCMP get, said Clayton. The amount of false or abandoned calls is up 202.4 per cent, going from 42 at this time last year to 127 this year.