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Kwanlin Dün First Nation hires safety officers to patrol streets

'When critical incidents happen in our community, we hear from our citizens all the time. They are requesting patrols, they are requesting people to be out there in the community.'

'We hope this gives [citizens] the sense of security that they are seeking,' said Chief Doris Bill

The safety officers and land steward are intended to be the 'eyes and ears' of the community. From left: Jesse Ryder and Elias Park (safety officers), Tyler O'Brien (land steward). (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Yukon's Kwanlin Dün First Nation has launched its new Community Safety Program, with two newly-hired community safety officers and a lands steward. 

The community safety officers are meant to be a first point of contact for Kwanlin Dün citizens living in Whitehorse's McIntyre subdivision. They'll patrol the streets and, on occasion, work with the RCMP, Whitehorse bylaw officers, or Yukon conservation officers.

"When critical incidents happen in our community, we hear from our citizens all the time. They are requesting patrols, they are requesting people to be out there in the community," said Kwanlin Dün chief Doris Bill.

"We hope this gives them the sense of security that they are seeking."

The safety officers will not carry firearms, but will have protective gear including a stab-proof vest with bullet-resistant plates.

Training for the new recruits was intense, says Kwanlin Dün's acting justice director, Gina Nagano. (CBC)

Kwanlin Dün's acting justice director, Gina Nagano, says the training for the new safety officers was intense.

"We partnered with the Justice Institute of British Columbia and developed a five week curriculum training program," Nagano said. 

She says some of the training focused on dealing with hostility and conflict resolution. There was also First Aid training.

The lands steward will monitor the First Nation's traditional lands, and work with conservation officers. They will also educate both citizens and visitors about the use and respect for the land.

Violence and drug-related crime

Kwanlin Dün has seen its share of violence and drug-related crime. According to the First Nation, RCMP were called to the McIntyre subdivision more than 800 times in 2015 for drug and alcohol-related offences.

In April, two women were found dead in a home in the McIntyre subdivision. Police said they were victims of homicide. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

In April, two women were found dead in a home in the neighbourhood. Police said the women were victims of homicide, but the investigation continues with nobody in custody.

The new safety officer program is a pilot project and part of the larger Community Safety Initiative that the First Nation developed in 2015. It's been implemented in stages.

In May 2016, the Yukon government contributed $1.4 million over three years to the program.

"The security and safety of our community is a priority for our citizens and Kwanlin Dün leadership," Chief Bill said in a news release.

"The safety officers and land steward will play an important part in the security and safety of our people, our community and our lands."

A new vehicle means the officers will be highly visible in the community. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

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