It’s been 25 years since Minajean Smith began cleaning up the streets of Peachland.
Big deeds like that don’t go unnoticed. Her quarter-century of service with the Peachland Community Policing Office was recognized last month at the organization’s headquarters.
“We’re just one big happy family,” she says.
“RCMP Volunteers like Mina are an integral component in the successful delivery of community policing services,” said RCMP Insp. Anna Marie Mallard. “We greatly appreciate the true dedication of Mina to her community and everything all our volunteers, throughout the Kelowna Regional Detachment, do each and every day.”
Smith is a founding member of the local organization. She recalls in 1992 when now-retired RCMP officer Smiley Nelson helped to launch the program, creating a surrogate set of eyes for the regional detachment in Kelowna.
“It was just called Citizens Patrol at the time,” she said, adding that cell phones weren’t around then. “In order to become part of the team, there was a fellow who taught us radio; how to communicate properly and use the right call letters.”
Today, vehicles belonging to the Peachland Community Policing are distinctly marked similarly to real cop cars. But back in the day, volunteers were patrolling the District in personal vehicles.
“So whenever we would go out on patrol we would contact the Kelowna detachment, tell the dispatcher the make of our vehicle and who was driving it. We were just driving a big truck around.”
“In the evenings people would see us drive by, we’d wave, and they knew who we were even in our own vehicles. We would stop and talk to them, and they liked knowing we were out there.”
One afternoon in the mid-1990s, a driver who crashed his car in Peachland attempted to flee the scene.
“The cops came with their dogs and they chased him for over three hours. This guy knew the country. And we got a call to assist.”
The Community Police kept a lid on things while the cops went on their manhunt.
“Just off of Gladstone Road is where we found him.”
It’s not always that exciting, but “We’ve caught speeders,” she said, clarifying that “We didn’t catch them but we reported them and the cops pick them up outside of town.”
There’s no telling how much crime the organization has prevented, but efforts of Community Policing volunteers are noticed every summer when they direct the insane traffic flow during World of Wheels.
And there was a local mother who found herself grateful for the Community Police after her son’s bicycle “disappeared.”
“The kid threw his bike in the lake and told his mom he lost it,” Smith said. “We found it in the lake, somewhere near the dog beach. The mom was about to buy him a brand new bike.”
The local organization still has strong support with over 30 volunteers, but that number has dwindled from nearly 50 in the 1990s. Smith hopes to see younger volunteers join the organization so the organization can operate long into the future.
“It would be a real discredit to the community if they didn’t have the van going up and down the streets. A lot of people feel a bit safer knowing that at least somebody’s out there watching.”