Ucluelet’s new top cop is settling into what’s already been a busy summer since provincial travel restrictions were lifted on Canada Day.
“It’s way busier than I thought it was going to be, especially when things opened July 1. The floodgates opened and our file count went through the roof,” Sgt. Kevin Smith told the Westerly News, adding the majority of the files have been tourist-related.
Smith transferred to the Ucluelet RCMP detachment after spending the past three years in Masset on Haida Gwaii where he had served as the detachment commander.
As his limited duration posting in Masset came to an end, the 17-year police veteran was excited to jump on the opportunity to head to Ucluelet.
“It was my number one choice. I grew up in Port Alberni and I lived in Tofino for 10 years and I always wanted to come back to the coast. I missed the ocean and the opportunity came about, so I jumped at it to return to the coastline,” he said, adding he had enjoyed a previous career as a carpenter in Tofino.
Smith arrived in Ucluelet with his wife and four kids in April and said his family is ecstatic to bask in their new surroundings, adding they have been visiting the area “almost every summer” as tourists.
“They all are happy to be back and excited to surf and hike and fish and do all that fun stuff,” he said.
He added Ucluelet’s embrace has been as warm as he had remembered.
“Everyone’s been great. It’s a really good detachment, there’s good staff here. The town has been excellent and welcoming, it’s very police-friendly and it’s great seeing people I haven’t seen in quite a while,” he said. “The town has changed, but not entirely. It’s still the Ucluelet I remembered…It’s still full of great people and friendly people. People wave to you as you’re driving down the street. It’s full of young families and great amenities and that’s what I always liked about Ucluelet.”
The Ucluelet RCMP detachment is now fully staffed with Smith overseeing four constables, though he noted it’s a small team to handle summer’s workload as the town’s modest population of roughly 1,700 residents balloons exponentially when tourist season arrives.
“I find that we’re understaffed. I don’t think our staffing levels have changed since the mid-1980s, but our file load is way more than back then. We have enough members to deal with the core complaints, but we’re not doing the extra things that I always like to do, like more foot patrols, boat patrols, backcountry patrols and spending as much time as I want in the schools,” he said. “Basically, we’re staffed to answer the calls and be reactive policing, but not enough to be proactive, at least during the summer.”
Smith replaced Ucluelet’s former police chief Sgt. Steve Mancini who was transferred from his limited duration posting in Ucluelet to become the rural commander for the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP detachment.
Smith said he hopes to continue the community policing efforts of his predecessors.
“I want to be in the schools as much as possible, having members seen to be out there and to be known as real people and not just uniforms…It’s important to know that police are people, we work really hard, we enjoy the communities we’re a part of and the more that we’re involved, I find, the better your posting is,” he said. “I’ve got big shoes to fill. Ucluelet has had a really good string of really good commanders, so I hope to carry on what they built and continue working hard to be a part of the community.”
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