Sgt. Murray McNeil of the Sicamous RCMP. (File photo)

Sgt. Murray McNeil of the Sicamous RCMP. (File photo)

Anticipating busy summer, Sicamous RCMP taking ‘realistic’ approach to COVID-19 restrictions

Enforcing physical distancing on beaches reminds sergeant of scene from Jaws

Facing another summer with COVID-19 and the potential for public beaches packed with people not physically distanced, Sgt. Murray McNeil thinks of the movie, Jaws.

“Everybody has seen Jaws,” said McNeil, during a May 12 presentation to council. “What happens when the sheriff says we’re going to shut the beaches down? You can’t tell everybody to get off the beach when it’s 33 degrees…”

While there may be public health orders in place that speak to public gatherings and physical distancing, McNeil stressed he and his officers need to take a realistic approach.

“We had COVID last year and we were doing our foot patrols, but we’re not telling people, ‘hey, you’re too close’ or whatever,” said McNeil. “When it’s 33-34 degrees and it’s sunny, people are going to put their blankets out when they go to the beach. And even if we did try to do that, we tried to clear the beach… in 20 minutes the beach is going to be full again.

“And even if we decided to do that at Sicamous Beach, what’s going on at Swansea Point, what’s going on at Canoe Beach. It’s trying to empty the ocean with a bucket.”

Read more: Road blocks to enforce B.C. COVID restrictions on recreational travel out of health authority

Read more: B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

After sharing statistics from the Sicamous RCMP detachment’s fourth quarter, McNeil dove into recent RCMP efforts related to provincial health orders and his take on the coming summer. Regarding police roadblocks held over the past weekend as part of the B.C. government’s efforts to ensure people were compliant with travel restrictions, McNeil noted no tickets were issued. Though people could be fined $575 for failing to comply with travel restrictions, McNeil explained the province has prioritized education over enforcement. McNeil said the same approach is being used in the community.

“So we get these calls sometimes at the office that so-and-so just showed up in my trailer park or my RV site, and they’ve got Saskatchewan plates or Alberta plates,” said McNeil. “We won’t go over there and write these $575 tickets, no matter how upset these people are. That’s not what the province wants.”

With campgrounds in the region already booked solid for July, McNeil sees a very busy summer ahead.

“I think the Shuswap is going to be a very popular destination and we’ll be busy,” said McNeil, later saying the Sicamous, Chase and Salmon Arm RCMP detachments will have their boats ready for the season.

Regarding the 4th quarter report, statistically, the first three months of 2021 were similar to the same period last year, with 336 calls for service this year and 338 last year.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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