Community patrol aims to outsmart criminals in Pang

“It’s meant to make dishonest people a little more nervous.”



Fed up with smashed windows and stolen snowmobiles, a small group of Pangnirtung residents are patrolling their community for would-be lawbreakers.

In two weeks, robbers in Pangnirtung ransacked the Northern store three times, broke into the post office, and took off with skidoos and all-terrain vehicles from random spots around the community.

Next month, eight volunteers will start a “community on patrol” squad to keep an eye out for the suspected handful of troublemakers, and report any suspicious activity to police.

“The community felt it was the sort of thing they wanted to take into their own hands,” said Greg Morash, the hamlet’s SAO. “Hopefully, it will be a deterrent.

“It’s meant to make dishonest people a little more nervous.”

The pilot project is likely a first for Nunavut, a territory constantly struggling with high rates of property crime. In Pangnirtung, Morash estimates that vandals and thieves have caused around $150,000 in damage to businesses, schools and hamlet buildings this year.

The small patrol group formed after a meeting between hamlet officials, businesses and the RCMP earlier this month. The hamlet agreed to absorb the costs of gas and oil for people patrolling the community on snowmobiles, at least until the end of January. Police are providing radios to phone in tips.

Morash, who volunteers in the group, said many people get away with crimes because RCMP patrols can’t watch over all parts of the community at the same time.

Worse yet, the RCMP trucks are too visible. Morash said thieves and vandals simply duck out of view when they see police coming, and then carry on with the crime when the RCMP is gone.

Morash said the community patrol group will outsmart vandals and other criminals because the volunteers won’t look like law enforcers. They’ll just be riding around town at random times on their snowmobiles.

However, Morash stressed they just want to help police and bylaw officers crack down on the perceived rise in crime, not replace them.

“They’re just the ears and eyes for the police,” Morash said of the volunteer group. “They’re not making arrests. That’s not their job.”

RCMP expect the volunteer group will go far in fighting local crime.

Const. Jeff Henderson, who’s helping coordinate the new group, said police often have a hard time solving crimes in Pangnirtung because few people are willing to talk about what they’ve seen.

Henderson said communication is improving between residents and police, and even led to a bootlegging bust in the community earlier this month.

But he hopes the community patrol will counteract the feeling that criminals will take revenge on people who give tips to police.

“As soon as we get a bit of communication with the community, it helps immensely,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he didn’t think the community’s new group reflected a need for more officers beyond the three already working in Pangnirtung, a community of 1,200.

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