By Steve Hubrecht

Columbia Valley RCMP Sergeant Darren Kakuno and Corporal Jeff Witzke were at the Invermere council meeting last week, and gave a quarterly update.

Kakuno began by explaining he will soon be leaving the detachment (see a future edition of the Pioneer for more). He added Witzke will fill in as temporary detachment commander until a new sergeant can be found.

A new corporal — Ryan Davies — has recently joined the Columbia Valley RCMP, transferring here from a post up in Whitehorse, Yukon. Davies started working at the Invermere detachment last week.

Kakuno pointed out that he has been with the Columbia Valley detachment for four and a half years. “For the RCMP that’s a pretty decent stretch,” said Kakuno. “My family and I have come to love the community and it won’t be easy to leave.”

Kakuno won’t be going far, however – his next posting is in Cranbrook where he will be a staff sergeant, working in an advisory and support capacity for all RCMP detachments in the East Kootenay region.

He pointed out that this new role will give him the opportunity to come back and visit the Columbia Valley, which he is looking forward to.

“He (Kakuno) will be missed here,” Witzke told council.

Witzke told council the local RCMP continue to help out patrolling on Highway 93 South through Kootenay National Park and on Highway 95 north to Golden. Both stretches of roadway have seen yet another huge jump in traffic volume as result of the fall closure of the Trans Canada Highway and subsequent rerouting of all vehicles through the Columbia Valley via Highway 93 and then 95.

“Already we’ve had a tractor trailer roll over into the ditch…It will be interesting to see what happens now that we are starting to get some snow. Winter is coming. It’s inevitable,” he said.

Witzke hammered on a theme that Kakuno has reiterated many times in his four and half years of giving quarterly updates: local residents need to be more diligent about locking their cars — and sheds — to prevent minor theft.

“What we are seeing is a lot of small-scale break and enters. There’s no specific targeting , they (the perpetrators) are simply going along and pulling on car doors to see if they are open. We need to educate the public to lock their vehicles and to lock their sheds,” he said.

Witzke also explained that with COVID-19 restrictions now lifted, the local RCMP have re-started many of their school programs.

“Next week we will be in schools talking about cellphone use,” he said. Witzke later clarified to the Pioneer that the talk will deal specifically with explicit messages or images on phones (also call ‘sexting’). It is an issue in the older grades of local elementary schools and at the local high school. He was quick to point out that almost every elementary school and high school in country deals with the same issue.

Witzke shared call-for-service statistics with Invermere council, and explained there were 1,148 calls for police service in the Columbia Valley in the July-September quarter, which is down from 1,252 in the same quarter in 2021 and 1,361 in the same quarter in 2020. He elaborated that Invermere accounted for 269 (roughly 23 per cent) of those 1,252 calls.

“It’s good to see the calls have dropped a little bit this year,” said Invermere mayor, Al Miller.

Councillor Gerry Taft said that he was intrigued that calls to Invermere accounted for only a quarter of all calls in the valley.

“It’s something to be aware of as our population in Invermere creeps toward that 5,000 mark,” he said. Once Invermere’s population hits 5,000 the district will need to start paying for its own police department with Invermere taxpayer money, rather having the current provincial government funded model.