Like many other people, Marc Pelletier moved to Parksville Qualicum Beach to retire. But the latest Oceanside RCMP detachment commander still has a little work left to do.
"I want zero crime; that's what I want," said Pelletier, who took over as Staff Sergeant of the local detachment in September following the appointment of Brian Hunter to head the Port Alberni detachment two months earlier. "We just want to rid Oceanside of the prolific offenders who think they can come in here and get away with anything. No. Not in the Parksville Qualicum area, because we will be on you."
Pelletier, who previously served as watch commander in Prince George, is in his 25th year with the RCMP. Most of it was spent in Nanaimo, where he served in the property crimes division, so he and his wife Denise are back on familiar ground as he counts down his final four or five years to retirement.
"I was lucky enough the posting came up here, which is great — my kids are still here," said Pelletier, 58, who has two grown daughters living on Vancouver Island. "It's great to be back here on the Island, and this is a great community."
Pelletier was born in the Yukon, where his father was stationed with the Canadian Forces, and moved to Quebec at age 10. He grew up, married and worked in Quebec City, where he was recruited into the RCMP. Following his training at the Depot facility in Saskatchewan, he was posted with his wife and two young daughters to Nanaimo as a constable in 1992.
"We had a 10-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old daughter, and nobody could speak English," he said. "I'm bilingual, but going to Nanaimo, I've got three people in my house that don't answer the phone because it's all in English."
Pelletier spent 12 years in that rotation, the last 10 working in and directing the plainclothes major crimes unit, before he was promoted to corporal and a post heading a two-man detachment in remote Beaver Creek, near the Alaska border in the Yukon.
"It was pretty neat," said Pelletier, whose detachment fleet included snowmobiles. "It's just the two of us in a huge geographical area. We were helping out the border guards and going out on patrol in the bush."
After less than two years in Beaver Creek, Pelletier was moved to Whitehorse to run a newly formed crime reduction unit, another plainclothes job.
Following two years in Whitehorse he was promoted to sergeant and moved back to Nanaimo, where he spent one year on the watch and returned to the street crime division. From there, he was sent to Prince George and placed in charge of the serious crime unit there until his return this year to the Island.
"It's like night and day," Pelletier said of the difference between Parksville Qualicum Beach and larger centres like Nanaimo and Prince George. "We don't have the amount of criminals that Nanaimo has, or Prince George. But look at what's going on with fentanyl, for example. That's all over the province and we're having some of that here, too. We're not immune to anything."
The major crime issue locally is Pelletier's personal pet peeve — the chronic, prolific offenders responsible for car theft and break-and-enters of cars and homes. He said the common denominator for nearly all of them is drug addiction and the need for money to purchase more drugs.
"It's a societal problem," he said. "We need to help those guys to get off the drugs so they're not committing more crime. The guy that goes away for three months in jail and comes right back out? He's got no job so he's right back at it. He goes for some drugs and he goes to do more crime. What else is he gonna do?"
The good news, given the small, insular nature of the community and its demographic makeup heavy on retirees, is that his officers know the suspects they need to track down. And, unlike bigger population centres, Parksville Qualicum Beach offers suspects few places to hide.
"They don't blend in as well here," Pelletier said.
No longer heading a remote two-man station in the Yukon or running a six-man major crimes unit, Pelletier said his biggest adjustment has been taking charge of the full operation of the Oceanside RCMP detachment, from maintaining the General Investigation Section (GIS) to running the watches and overseeing civilian office and support staff.
"It's a big challenge, but we've got good people here," he said. "They know what they're doing; it's been great."