West Vancouver city staff support police operations

Sanitation engineers in West Vancouver are helping the police to fight crime

A number of years ago, the previous Vancouver council endorsed something called Project Civil City. As part of that initiative, the City was considering the possibility of fighting crime with the cooperation of non-police city employees. The concept was rather simple. Use the various by-law officers, garbage workers, street cleaners etc…as an extra set of eyes and ears for the police. If a crime is committed, the police could then immediately send some key details to various city workers in the hope they might see someone suspicious and call it in to police.

When Vision Vancouver cancelled Project Civil City, they likely cancelled this initiative as well. However, in West Vancouver they are now moving forward with it. According to the Vancouver Sun, West Van has now equipped many of its employees with the capability of becoming part of a police operation.

On March 19th, West Vancouver Mayor Pamela Goldsmith Jones announced the new District Watch program was going into effect. A total of 80 West Vancouver staff are going to take part in this new crime fighting experiment. Constable Jeff Palmer told the Sun newspaper:

This dramatically expands our ability to find someone. We’ve had great cooperation from municipal workers in the past.

Its too bad that Vancouver’s council decided to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There were dozens of excellent and cost-effective ideas included in Project Civil City that could have helped catch the bad guys. Using your garbage workers to help identify possible grow ops and catch bank robbers is not only unique, it’s something that should become commonplace in our big cities.

Palmer had a great line when helping to explain the role that the municipal workers would have in helping the police catch criminals:

For their own safety, they need to function as our eyes and ears, not … as our arms and legs.

Kudos to West Vancouver for implementing this innovative program. The District is safer as a result of it.


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  • Julia

    eyes and ears on the street would be waaaay too easy. We should set up a committee to study it first. And be careful, it may require a whole new set of union negotiations as job discriptions will change to include citizenry.
    logic is not part of Vancouver city hall.

  • My immediate question would be “To solve what problem?”
    Is crime so out of control in West Vancouver that they have to start diverting garbage collectors to help stamp out the crime wave? Is Big Government always the answer? Do Vancouver residents really want Councillor Reimer inspecting their garbage to see if they are recycling correctly? Would you like the contents of your mailbox reported to Penny Ballem every morning?
    England has already gone this route – surveillance cameras everywhere; town councils regularly spy on citizens they suspect of not composting, or sending their children to the wrong school, etc. It makes a wonderful test case and surprisingly crime rates haven’t gone down at all.
    First we have to ask what is the problem we’re trying to solve. And then find the least intrusive and least expensive way to accomplish the task. What does a meter inspector know about police work? What laws would govern the information they collect and what use it’s put to? How long would that information be stored? Who would have access?
    Crime rates in Vancouver have been dropping for more than five years steady, all the while we have been increasing our police force and adding video surveillance of peaceful, law-abiding citizens.
    Meanwhile, the flow of guns into our city and surrounding areas from south of the border continues unchecked and gangs operate with impunity while they devote resources to watch law-abiding citizens go about their daily lives … something is out of whack with this picture.
    West Vancouver is a wealthy suburb, so I guess they can afford to waste taxpayer’s money watching all residents all the time. But here in Vancouver, we have serious challenges – schools being closed, library hours cut, arts programs slashed, and community center hours restricted while the number of homeless has doubled on this Mayor’s watch.
    I would encourage our civic government to address those serious problems first, and leave creation of a Big Brother watchdog state for another time.
    Meanwhile, next time you’re in West Vancouver, make sure you use the recycling bins and don’t even think about jaywalking. That garbageman on the corner is watching you …

  • julia

    how about the garbage guys calling 911 when they see someone breaking into cars as they drive down the alley? How about city crews notifying engineering about graffiti or vandalism.
    It does not have to be a big brother exercise.

  • That’s a great suggestion, Julia, but nothing prevents the garbage man now from doing what any responsible citizen would do if they witnessed a robbery – call the police.