Insp. Ted de Jager said no one had to twist his arm to take a new appointment as commander for the Penticton South Okanagan-Similkameen RCMP detachment.
“We love it here. They certainly didn’t force me to come here, I saw the opportunity and we jumped on it,” said de Jager, who said he has visited the South Okanagan often, though for pleasure, not for work.
“This is something my wife and I are very excited about. First impressions, it’s great. This is probably the sunniest day I have seen in the last six months,” said de Jager, whose last post was officer in charge of the Mission detachment.
De Jager, who started his new post last week, said he’s making it a priority to start connecting with the community as soon as he is settled into his new office.
“Once it is all up and done, then I will be out there quite often, as much as possible. I am a very big believer in community engagement,” said de Jager, explaining there is a difference between visibility and engagement.
“Visibility is important, but engagement is the next step, getting to know the community, getting to know all the partners and various people that are out there. That is what we are going to be focusing on.”
That includes connecting with community groups and associations, like the Downtown Penticton Association and others.
“That takes time and we have to build that up. Not that we don’t have a good relationship with the community, but it is just something we can always build on and that is the plan,” said de Jager.
When it came to finding a home, de Jager said they wanted to be near the action.
“Our plan was to be close to the downtown, so we can engage with the markets … all of the different life in the downtown area. That helps me to get connected and engaged,” said de Jager, adding that his wife is already ahead of him on that front. “My wife doesn’t take long to make friends. She’s already talked to a few of the business owners. As we become more connected to the community, we’ll expand those relationships from there.”
Coming to Penticton from Mission, de Jager already has one connection established in the community. Fire Chief Larry Watkinson served as chief of the Mission Fire Department before coming to Penticton in Feb. 2016.
“It helps knowing the fire chief already and having a pre-existing relationship with him,” said de Jager, adding that community engagement means also connecting with other emergency services and the city bylaw department.
“A lot of the concerns we have in any community are not just a policing issue. Firefighters are involved in that, paramedics, bylaw, social services. Those connections are high on my agenda as well,” said de Jager.
De Jager said he needs to get settled in and learn more about the community as he develops his game plan.
“I know there is always concerns about homelessness and about what we see on the street. That is about getting to know who those people are,” said de Jager. “I am not really one to target some of the people that are the most needy in society. There is a whole wraparound that we can do to support those people.”
But when it comes to crime, de Jager supports the concept of targeting prolific offenders.
“It’s proven that we target the prolific offenders, and we target the people that are committing the majority of crime, crime rates will go down,” said de Jager, adding that while he sees Penticton as a safe community, it is important to ensure residents have that perception too, and that it stays that way.
“That is not done by chasing our tail and constantly doing the same old thing. That requires a bit of change sometimes,” said de Jager. “Within this detachment, and this whole regional detachment, there are a lot of prolific offenders that are moving up and down the valley.
“It is about targeting them so that all the communities that are served by this detachment are taken care of.”
The detachment’s targeted enforcement unit is very effective, de Jager said, noting they just took a couple of problem offenders off the street recently.
“That kind of focussed enforcement is exactly what we want, but there is also the engagement, everything from block watch to citizens on patrol, getting people involved, that is exactly what we want to do.”