Portage's Citizens On Patrol Program (COPP) started up in 1992, 30 years ago. Staff sergeant Howard Kearly and RCMP community policing officer Larry Dalmon headed it up, and celebrations continue throughout 2022.
"In 1991, crime was pretty high in Portage. The Justice Department of the Government and the RCMP got together and decided that they should be mobilizing citizens," says Rose. "And that's how COPP got started. They had meetings in the Herman Prior Centre and there were about 70 people that showed up. They did the training over the winter and on May the 26th, 1992, we held our first patrol. That's what we use as our anniversary date."
She notes this means that as of this past May, they've reached the landmark of 30 years in our community.
"We patrol the City of Portage and Peony Farm as well," adds Rose. "Most of the patrols are done at night, but there are some daytime patrols as well."
Representative Charlie adds anybody can join, but the process is fairly rigid.
"It's important that you start by making an application, and then you go through some preliminaries such as checking your background and that sort of thing," says Charlie. "Then we decide whether you're eligible to do the job."
Rose notes changes have taken place over the years.
"Well, we used to average between 1,200 and 1,500 hours a year," continues Rose. "COVID certainly has had an effect on that. We still continued to patrol, but it was on a reduced basis and so, it's made a difference. We weren't able to have our community barbecue in '20 or '21, plus our golf tournament with the RCMP. We couldn't have them either, but we're having both of them this year, so I think it'll be good."
Charlie adds that the organization's been around for 30 years and is still quite healthy, owing its success to the involvement of other organizations.
"The RCMP, the city of Portland Prairie, and other people that have been involved with COPP for throughout the years, have helped so much," continues Charlie. "There have been a large number of people that have come in, did their thing, and moved on. But we're always looking for people to join us. It is an opportunity for people to grow in many ways. We've had young people join and then became RCMP officers. It has a lot of advantages to being part of the city and part of our organization."
Those says there are over 750 members over the last 30 years.
"Sadly, a lot of them have passed away," says Rose. "It's one of those things. We have a member in our group that's actually got 28 years of service with us, and a few that have got 25. So, there are some long-term members in there, but there are also some new members as well. We have about 25 members right now, which is not really enough to cover the city the way that we would like to have it."
Rose notes you can get involved by visiting the RCMP detachment and fill out a criminal record check, which is also online.
"They fill out the application and then we get it," adds Rose. "We decide, as Charlie said, whether it passes and then there's some training going on."
Charlie explains that it's important that people realize that there is a group of people that are the eyes and ears of the RCMP.
"We do get out and we'd like to do more," says Charlie. "We're kind of hoping that things will improve from the pandemic point of view, and we can get out. We hope that we do play a role that will help reduce crime in our city."
As part of the celebration and for fundraising purposes, COPP held a large community barbecue Thursday. École Arthur Meighen School was involved and profits are going to the Junkyard Dogs Dog Park this year.
"We are looking at a full year, so we're looking to see lots of things happen for COPP and the city of Portage la Prairie," adds Charlie.