Policing forum emphasize community safety, communication as priorities

Policing forum emphasize community safety, communication as priorities

Updated: 3 months, 1 day, 14 hours, 3 minutes, 3 seconds ago

“The big takeaway for me is communication. … The police are working to keep the community safe. I will be working on keeping the public informed and communicating what’s happening in Banff.”

Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr, detachment commander for Banff RCMP, speaks at the Banff RCMP's community discussion at Banff Elementary School in Banff on Thursday (Oct. 27). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

1 / 1 Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr, detachment commander for Banff RCMP, speaks at the Banff RCMP's community discussion at Banff Elementary School in Banff on Thursday (Oct. 27). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

BANFF – Banff residents were able to voice their thoughts and concerns on policing and community safety in an open forum held by Banff RCMP.

Community members and police met at the Banff Elementary School Thursday (Oct. 27), with topics of violence, drugs, public safety, traffic, mental health and others facing the mountain town being discussed.

At the forefront of the discussion were the two murders that took place this summer in Banff, which greatly impacted the sense of safety in the mountain community.

“I think coming out of those instances of brutal violence in our community there’s still a sense of a profound sadness and wanting answers and wanting to know why, but also wanting to know what can be done to prevent these horrific instances from ever happening again,” said Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.

“There’s still a sense of unease in our community. There’s a sense of fear, but I also heard having more communication with RCMP leadership can help people be more at ease in having more information and feeling like they’re empowered to have those conversations. I hope the community walks away with a sense feeling that the RCMP is very approachable and accessible and the dialogue for two-way communication is open and RCMP going to do their best to make Banff as safe as it can be.”

Ethan Enns-Goneau, 26 and a lifelong Banff resident, was killed Aug. 5 at the Dancing Sasquatch nightclub on Banff Avenue. Police charged John Arrizza with second degree murder and he remains in custody.

Less than a month later on Sept. 3, a 27-year-old Foothills County man was stabbed outside of Dancing Sasquatch and later died. John Sproule was charged with second degree murder and remains in custody.

The murders were the first in the community since 1990 when then 18-year-old Ryan Jason Love stabbed 23-year-old cab driver Lucie Turmel for her earnings that evening, which were $130.

Banff RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Mike Buxton-Carr said the stabbings left police “absolutely shocked," but also frustrated since they were near the scene of both when it occurred and were unable to prevent them.

“They were present and actively working within 100 metres of where the offences happened on both occasions. While it was suitable to make an immediate response, safely arrest people responsible and further prevent additional harm it affected them that they weren’t able to prevent it simply by being in the vicinity,” he said.

The two murders are being handled by the RCMP’s Alberta Major Crimes unit and are now before the courts.

Buxton-Carr said he feels there’s a great sense of trust between the police and the community and that public safety is the highest priority, but he heard a greater emphasis on communication is needed.

“There’s a need for them to hear from us more often,” he said.

“The big takeaway for me is communication. … The police are working to keep the community safe. I will be working on keeping the public informed and communicating what’s happening in Banff.”

One of many negatives of the COVID-19 pandemic was the lack of opportunity to engage with public members that came with the multiple shutdowns and public health recommendations limiting face-to-face meetings.

Buxton-Carr said he hopes to hold a forum at least twice a year – with the next one in March – to hear from community members more frequently.

He also noted several times in the forum that police want to hear from the public and work with them on implementing ideas to enhance communication.

Several residents spoke of how in the past there was greater reporting of crimes in the town by media, while others suggested ideas to make people more comfortable in contacting the police. Several people said it can be intimidating to reach out to police or contact 911 and it was suggested greater collaboration with community groups could potentially increase the feeling of safety among residents.

“What I heard from the community there was deep feelings about safety, there were concerns about being able to walk alone in the community,” Buxton-Carr said. “Statistics do bare out this is an extremely safe community, but there was a need for discussion on how we can enhance the public’s perception of safety. … Our involvement is people need to feel safe walking around town. A takeaway is how we can deliver services to make people feel safe.”

The forum had several RCMP officers not only from the Banff detachment, but also several units based in southern Alberta. In addition to several council members and senior leadership from the Town, community organizations such as Banff BarWatch and YWCA Banff spoke to residents.

With service review upcoming for Banff council in the coming weeks, DiManno said it was important to hear what is top of mind for residents.

“For me, going into budget decisions I’ll be looking to the RCMP as well as other agencies with expertise such as the [YWCA] for guidance for ways the Town can assist with crime prevention and preventing sexual violence,” she said.

“It was helpful to hear what folks are thinking because we don’t always get a lot of public input at service review. Any time I can listen to the community, it helps inform decisions and better understand how the community is feeling. It’s very valuable.”