Concerned Inuvik residents, led by Paul MacDonald, have started a neighbourhood watch to help combat the recent upsurge in crime in the community.
Emergency responders in Inuvik had an eventful month in September. Break-ins, vandalism and arson, including a failed car bomb, have kept the RCMP and Fire Department busy.
MacDonald created a Facebook page for the group, Inuvik Citizens on Patrol (ICOP), two weeks ago and received 25 requests to join the same day. By the end of the week, it was over 100.
“We want there to be more eyes on the street and to help the RCMP do their job,” MacDonald said.
He also said that he suspects the recent rise in criminal activity is partly a consequence of Inuvik’s decreasing population. The town’s quickly dwindling access to natural gas and the resulting skyrocketing prices have driven families out of the community.
“I think what’s happening is that there are less people out there watching for this kind of stuff who would normally call things in, and the people who would commit crimes are still here,” MacDonald said.
Thirty people attended the first ICOP meeting last week and the members have already begun patrolling. The Facebook group is now closed so the participants remain anonymous.
Inuvik’s senior administrative officer Grant Hood said he’s not opposed to ICOP’s presence on the streets as long as they work in conjunction with the RCMP.
“The key is that I don’t want it to become a vigilante system. I don’t think anybody wants that,” he stated. “It’s certainly good to have more eyes and ears out there, but it has to be done under controlled circumstances.”
Activities surrounding Fire Prevention Week have thrown the town’s recent issues into sharp relief. Deputy Fire Chief Gordon Simms said the point seems lost on some of the older kids and some adults, as well.
“We go into schools and talk about fire safety. We distribute literature and have the open house,” he said, adding that some people just don’t get the message.
Simms laments the recent criminal activity in the town, but is equally concerned with the safety of residents and emergency responders alike.
“We’ve had a couple of fires now where they had propane tanks set up. I guess they’re just trying to see if that propane tank exploded and we were there, what would happen?”