Kwanlin Dün FN hiring safety officers for Whitehorse's most violent neighbourhood

Chief Doris Bill says two full time officers will be hired to help community members and work with the RCMP in crime prevention and enforcement.

Chief Doris Bill says officers will play a big role along with the RCMP in creating safer community

Gina Nagano discusses plans to help make the most violent neighbourhood in Whitehorse a better place to live. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

A pilot project that will see Community Liaison Safety Officers working with the RCMP in the Kwanlin Dün First Nation's McIntyre subdivision in Whitehorse should reduce crime said Chief Doris Bill.

Bill made the announcement with Premier Darrell Pasloski and Yukon Justice Minister Brad Cathers Friday. The territorial government is contributing $1.4 million over three years for the program.

"I think the big difference is that these liaison officers will be our own people. They know the community, they know our people, they understand our culture and I think it will make a big difference," said Bill.

There have been improvements in the First Nation's relationship with the justice system, including the RCMP, but its citizens are more likely to call other Kwanlin Dün members, especially for less serious matters, the Chief said.

Bill said she hopes the hiring of two full time officers and support staff can begin within six weeks.

Chief Doris Bill says she believes community members are more likely to call new Kwanlin Dün Community Liaison Safety Officers than regular police when they have information about a crime. (Philippe Morin/CBC)
The RCMP were called to the McIntyre subdivision more than 800 times in 2015, mostly for drug- and alcohol-related offences including assaults and break-and-enters, according to Jeanie Dendys, the First Nation's Justice Director.

Dendys said she knows women who sleep with a baseball bat next to their beds, but added it's not the only community suffering in this way.

"I do not believe for one minute this is isolated to Kwanlin Dün, this is a Yukon wide issue," she said.

The First Nation is also looking at more street lighting, cameras and trying to shut down "party houses." It consulted with a security company in devising the security plan, said Gina Nagano who worked on the plan.

"We are moving from more of a reactionary model to a very proactive model and I think if we're going to look at addressing issues from a community rooted level, we have to take more precautionary measures," said Nagano.

Chief Bill said the impetus for change has been coming from community members.

"In 2014 there were two murders in our community. And at the general assembly, the same year, the citizens were adamant they wanted a safer place to live," she said.

with files from Philippe Morin