Trust, hope and pride: Selkirk First Nation has its own security officers
'People are feeling a little more at ease knowing that they have someone they can call'
The Selkirk First Nation in Yukon has been grappling with how to bring a greater sense of safety to the community of Pelly Crossing.
That's why the First Nation has now started a Security Safety Program. It employs local people to identify problems and sometimes intervene in situations before they turn bad.
The community security officers patrol the streets, and work with the local RCMP.
"People are feeling a little more at ease knowing that they have someone they can call ... when they see suspicious activity like suspected drug dealers coming into the community," says Sharon Nelson, chief of the Selkirk First Nation.
She says the security officers don't do police work, but work collaboratively with local RCMP officers.
Nelson said the First Nation decided to start the program after some violent crimes in the community. The most recent case involves two women who were charged with first-degree murder in the death of a man in 2017.
The security officer program started earlier this year. Nelson says officers work Thursday to Sunday.
"We know that there is going to be an increased activity like, around payroll days or weekends, and we know that there are suspicious vehicles coming into the community," Nelson said.
She said the First Nation is looking at longer shifts for the officers through the summer.
'These programs work'
Gina Nagano was an RCMP officer for over 21 years. She is now the owner of Northern Area Security, a training and consulting company. She helped the Selkirk First Nation set up its security officer program.
"I was asked to come to the community as a result of a number of initiatives that were going on, in terms of violence in the community, the fatalities, the homicides that happened here, the bootlegging issues, the drug trafficking issues," she said.
Nagano also helped the Kwanlin Dün First Nation set up its Community Safety Program in 2017.
"I believe these programs work in communities because they are grounded in the communities. They are built around the culture of the community," she said.
"What I have seen in changes, is hope and pride — because these security officers are local, they are from here, and that's just pride back to the community."
Darcy Marcotte is the community security officer lead. He says since taking on the job he has witnessed a change in the community.
"People are letting their kids out now riding bikes around. Before, kids weren't really allowed out without being watched a lot. They know that we are patrolling in the evenings, we are watching properties," said Marcotte.
The Security Officer Program is funded by the Selkirk First Nation , but Chief Nelson hopes the First Nation program can get some territorial and federal funding.
She says the next step is to get further training for the officers, so they can get more advanced safety officer training.