Police presence in Chemainus in an actual building is limited to South Island Highway Patrol on Chemainus Road. (Photo by Pete Cavanaugh)

Police presence in Chemainus in an actual building is limited to South Island Highway Patrol on Chemainus Road. (Photo by Pete Cavanaugh)

Petition calls for policing commitment in Chemainus to be honoured

Former detachment member leads the charge in making the municipality and RCMP accountable

A former Chemainus RCMP detachment officer has started a petition calling on North Cowichan and the RCMP to honour an agreement made to residents in the north end of the municipality in 1998 to provide 24-hour policing with two officers in the former detachment area.

Terry van Seters, who served 12 years with the detachment, was well-known around the community for his hands-on approach and frequent interaction with residents. His knowledge of the situation pertaining to policing in Chemainus and Crofton is vast and his petition garnered nearly 500 signatures in less than 24 hours since he started it Sunday.

The policing issue in the community since the Chemainus detachment was incorporated into the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment has long drawn the ire of residents. The original pledge to north end residents in the affected area to maintain the two officers was made as a concession to extreme opposition to the closure.

A north zone perimeter extended to Herd Road in the south that increased the patrol area for the former Chemainus detachment from Mays Road on the Trans Canada Highway and Escarpment Way on Osborne Bay Road was seen as another acceptable concession.

But those policing levels were short-lived, van Seters pointed out, when the eight police officers who were assigned to continue patrolling the former detachment area were continually drawn away to assist in policing the south end. As a result, the former Chemainus detachment area has become a rural patrol for the RCMP, he added, with response times to serious incidents proving woefully inadequate. It’s a situation where he saw the writing on the wall back in 1998.

“Anybody who wanted to listen to me, I told them what was going to happen,” van Seters said.

“For those two years I was still here, I was able to ensure we still had those patrols going on. I found myself, as well as the members patrolling Chemainus-Crofton, being drawn south.”

He eventually moved on to corporal with Highway Patrol on the Lower Mainland, sargeant of VIP protective services for 12 years and 4 1/2 years with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, including working from home after moving to Maple Bay 3 1/2 years ago. The Chemainus posting was always near and dear to his heart and he’s very concerned it still hasn’t been resolved to the public’s satisfaction after so long.

Seeing so many posts on Facebook motivated him to work toward that commitment from long ago being honoured.

“Criminal acts are going unreported, as residents have stopped calling the police for assistance,” van Seters noted. “The communities of Chemainus and Crofton provide a substantial tax base to the municipality, with little return. Population growth over the past 20 years has increased that tax base and the requirement for a regular police presence.”

The current police building in Chemainus has housed South Island Highway Patrol since 2000. That department will be moved into the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP building, leaving the Chemainus office vacant.

That would make an ideal location for the officers assigned to Chemainus, he proposes.

”The former Chemainus detachment must be returned to its rightful use as a zone policing office for residents of the north end, with North Cowichan/Duncan members assigned there for periods of time sufficient to become known to the residents where they can become the trusted community members they once were.

”There must be office personnel occupying the building during appropriate business hours and police personnel working out of that building seven days a week, providing patrol coverage, at least equal to that provided 23 years ago, and which the mayor and council promised to enhance. The police officers assigned to the former detachment area must be committed to policing the north zone “only”, without being drawn into the south end, where they would, once again, become unavailable to the residents of Chemainus and Crofton in a timely manner.”

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The mayor and council of North Cowichan and the officer in charge of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are being petitioned to fulfil the obligations to the taxpayers of the north end.

Van Seters stressed the petition can only be signed by residents living within the North Cowichan municipal boundaries. The petition can he accessed at http://chng.it/8MXsyqtRBz.

Van Seters hopes the petition can be presented at a municipal council meeting in the near future, as COVID restrictions will allow.

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Groundbreaking for the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment buiolding. From left: Staff Sgt. Chris Swain, Insp. Chris Bear, MP Alistair MacGregor, CVRD vice-chair Ian Morrison, North Cowichan Mayor Siebring, City of Duncan Mayor Staples, Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour, Const. Jen Morgan. (Photo submitted)

Groundbreaking for the new North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment buiolding. From left: Staff Sgt. Chris Swain, Insp. Chris Bear, MP Alistair MacGregor, CVRD vice-chair Ian Morrison, North Cowichan Mayor Siebring, City of Duncan Mayor Staples, Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour, Const. Jen Morgan. (Photo submitted)

This building in downtown Chemainus formerly housed the Chemainus RCMP detachment before it became the home for the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Centre. (Photo courtesy Art Carlyle)

This building in downtown Chemainus formerly housed the Chemainus RCMP detachment before it became the home for the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Centre. (Photo courtesy Art Carlyle)

Newspaper article from the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle in 1998 about the policing situation in Chemainus. (File)

Newspaper article from the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle in 1998 about the policing situation in Chemainus. (File)

A newspaper article from the Cowichan Valley Citizen in 1998 about the policing situation in Chemainus. (File)

A newspaper article from the Cowichan Valley Citizen in 1998 about the policing situation in Chemainus. (File)