For the past six years, Manuela Noel has helped the Coquitlam RCMP with its Cell Watch and Junior Mountie Camp, carried out foot patrols and been on the front desk at the Mary Hill Road community police station in Port Coquitlam.
And she has done it all free of charge.
“It gets me out of the house,” Noel told The Tri-City News. “I always get to meet new people and help in the community — all the good things that come with volunteerism.”
Noel is one of about 200 volunteers who regularly assist the Mounties at the Guildford Way detachment as well as at the four community police stations with work and campaigns that Mounties can’t always fully cover.
But with the new year comes changes and often a loss of personnel. This year is no exception.
Candice Critchlow, the manager of Port Coquitlam’s two community police stations, said she recently lost five former volunteers who are now in training to become full-time officers or are currently at the detachment; plus others have moved away or gave up their positions due to life changes.
In a bid to boost its number of helpers, Coquitlam RCMP will host a volunteer information session next Thursday to recruit volunteers. The talk will walk candidates through the application process and explain the roles available to them.
Jackie Rothenberger, the volunteer co-ordinator at the detachment and the leader of the Tri-Cities Speed Watch and Citizens' Crime Watch programs, said police are looking for “professional, hard-working” volunteers with a mature attitude. And candidates can pick any volunteer position that appeals to them and for which they are eligible.
“We’re looking for the right fit,” Rothenberger said.
Nicole Cairns, who runs the Burquitlam and Ridgeway community police offices, said volunteers range in age from 16 to 95 (Second World War veteran John (Doc) Cumbers is the oldest volunteer). Some of the longtime helpers have more than 20 years of service, including Darlene Browning at the Ridgeway office.
“We’ve got people who only want to do bike patrols on the trails. We’ve got others whose pet peeve is distracted driving so we get them into Cell Watch,” Critchlow said. “Our younger volunteers like to remove graffiti because they take pride in the city’s beautification.
“There are lots of opportunities available, on any day,” she said.
PoCo Coun. Steve Darling, the council designate for community safety, said he would also like to see more outreach to have community police station volunteers recruiting — and sharing tips about how to stay safe — at special events and with schools, businesses and care homes. Last year, PoCo city council purchased tents for the station volunteers to set up information booths.
Meanwhile, PoCo Heritage will have a display at PoCo city hall in April to mark 25 years of community policing in the city.
The Coquitlam RCMP volunteer information session is Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at Coquitlam city hall (3000 Guildford Way). The event is free but registration is required by calling 604-945-1579 or emailing email@example.com. Applications are due by March 9.