RCMP delivering groceries for people self-isolating in Old Crow

People who are self-isolating in Old Crow, Yukon, and need groceries can have them delivered by police.

'I can't say that I've ever acted as an Uber Eats driver'

RCMP Cpl. Patrick Russell, left, has partnered with the Old Crow Retail Co-op to deliver groceries. (RCMP)

RCMP officers in Old Crow, Yukon, are offering a new service for people who are self-isolating and in need of groceries: home delivery. 

"I've got almost 13 years as an RCMP officer ... I can't say that I've ever acted as an Uber Eats driver," said Cpl. Patrick Russell with a laugh.

That changed last month after Russell, the detachment commander, held a meeting with people who work in essential services in Old Crow, which has a population of about 250.

One topic that came up was people who have to self-isolate for two weeks, which is now a requirement for most of those who travel into the fly-in community, as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

There are no reported cases of the illness in the community.

Although there is a community van, it's mainly for medical-related purposes. Russell said he pitched the idea of partnering with Old Crow Retail Co-op, the only grocery store in the community, and the store's management agreed.

"It also doubled as an ability for us to get to know who's in self-isolation and just keep tabs on them to see how they're doing," he said.

Russell said the detachment's three officers have also been delivering groceries to elders, regardless of whether they're self-isolating, and the reaction to the service has been mainly positive since it started on March 26.

RCMP officers in Old Crow, Yukon, have been delivering groceries since March 26. (RCMP)

"We are fully uniformed, on shift, and in a marked police vehicle when we show up, and we've kind of joked that pulling into the driveway and hitting the siren would be the telltale sign of your groceries being delivered. At this point, we've just stuck to the door knocking," he said.

Officers physically distance themselves when making deliveries. They leave the boxes near the front doors of homes, knock, back away a couple of metres, and then leave when the delivery has been accepted.

They can also deliver essential mail, including prescriptions, if people call in and authorize the officers to do so. 

People also have to call the store — not the police — to order groceries

Russell said some grocery shoppers have asked if the RCMP can provide them with rides home, which he has had to decline.

"The whole purpose in this is so that you don't have to come to the store," he said.

"If we do see a case in the community and we do contact-tracing back to suggest that you've been in the store, we have to close the store. So if we close the store to try to sanitize it or the staff have to now self-isolate, how are people going to get their groceries?"

Although Russell doesn't package the groceries, he appears to have a bit of an inside scoop on what Old Crow residents are eating.

"Chips are like $13 a bag up here so, you know, we're not seeing too many of those go out the door," he said. "It's just your standard stuff. We're seeing a lot of vegetables, a lot of boxed pizzas. I think we delivered ice cream the other day."