A Town Hall meeting in Cache Creek on Jan. 29 sought to answer questions and assuage fears about crime in the community, following the fatal shooting of Brock Ledoux in the town on Jan. 14.
Approximately 70 residents were at the meeting at the Cache Creek Community Hall, where mayor Santo Talarico and councillors Wendy Coomber, Lisa Dafoe, Sue Peters, and Annette Pittman were on hand. Sgt. Kathleen Fitzgerald, commander of the Ashcroft RCMP detachment, was also there, to answer questions about crime and policing.
Talarico thanked everyone who came out, and indicated that questions would only be taken about crime and policing issues. The first question was “Since this incident [the Ledoux homicide] will we be able to have extra police in Cache Creek to let people know we’re safe?”
Fitzgerald’s answer was a succinct “No, to be blunt.” She went on to explain that police numbers are based on population, and detailed the staffing at the Ashcroft detachment, which looks after Cache Creek: a sergeant and four constables on general duty, and a corporal and three constables on traffic. “However, we work closely with the Clinton detachment: they back us up, and we back them up. And Kamloops can be here pretty damn fast.”
She added that the major crimes unit is in charge of the homicide investigation, freeing up local officers to continue with their regular duties in the area.
Fitzgerald was asked why a full day elapsed between a suspect in the homicide being apprehended and the public being informed of that fact. She replied that it was an operational decision. “We don’t know if others are involved, and don’t want to tip our hand.”
Asked if the shooting was gang-related, Fitzgerald replied “What’s the definition of a gang, and what’s the definition of a criminal organization? The two people involved were known to the police, were involved in drug and crime culture. We can’t say if it was gang-related. We do have groups of people involved with crime, and they know each other.”
She continued, “Are we safe? I think so. But we need to have the community involved. It’s not just the police. You have to trust in us to do our job, and we have to trust you to tell us what you know.”
Fitzgerald was asked why, when the suspect in the homicide was known to have fled in the vicinity of MacLean Drive, police did not go door-to-door to warn residents, and was also asked why police appeared to be “standing back and doing nothing”.
“We were looking for a suspect. It was a very dynamic, very serious situation,” replied Fitzgerald. “We had a homicide, and someone on the run. We were ‘standing back’ for a reason, doing containment, doing the job the way we were trained and waiting for backup.”
She also noted that many people were on social media during the event. “When these dynamic events are going on, social media can help: people know to lock their doors and lay low. But it’s a double-edged sword. You think you’re notifying neighbours via social media, but criminals are also following social media, and they can see where we are.” She added that people have to realize that not everything they see on social media is true.
Cache Creek council was asked if they would look into citizen patrols (COPS), such as the program in Logan Lake. Fitzgerald said that she had had a discussion with council regarding COPS and Block Watch. “We can bring them into our community, but we can’t do it on our own. Council runs the Block Watch program. And these are great programs when people stick to the mandate, but some people can get over-zealous. You have to make sure you have a clear and safe mandate.”
Cllr. Peters added that Cache Creek council has agreed to set up a Block Watch program. “We’re willing to talk to the necessary people to set it up.”
Concerns were raised about an increase in the community’s transient population as spring approaches. Fitzgerald said “It’s not against the law to be homeless, to be here, to have mental health issues. We don’t have shelters, and there aren’t a lot of resources like in big cities.” She praised community organizations such as the Elizabeth Fry Society and The Equality Project, noting that they do the best with what they have.
“It’s hard to see, hard to watch people with drug and mental health issues, and we have to work towards a solution.”
A concern was raised about crimes on Stage Road in Cache Creek. Fitzgerald stressed, at this point and throughout the meeting, the need for community members to step forward, report what they see, and then follow through. “We need witnesses to step forward. Rumours and innuendo don’t cut it. People have to be willing to step up, report things, and then go to court. We [police] can’t do it alone.”
An audience member asked about how familiar Kamloops officers were with the community when called in to assist, and suggested that members from Kamloops could come here and ride with local officers to see the area. Fitzgerald replied that Kamloops members regularly come to the area, so do know it, and added that technology in the police vehicles also helps.
It was noted that Cache Creek’s location on two main highways made it a place with lots of people passing through, which caused some problems. Fitzgerald agreed, saying that while people might not be coming to the town looking to cause a problem, there were many crimes of opportunity. “Lock your vehicles, lock your doors, and take precautions when you go on holidays.”
Someone asked about the legality of containing someone found on your property, and Fitzgerald replied “That depends on how you’ve contained them.”
She added that the best approach was safety first. “Maybe it’s better to take pictures and get a description.”
The meeting wrapped up after an hour, with Talarico thanking the people of Cache Creek for their patience and Fitzgerald for her service to the community.