Crime fight money welcome, says councillor
Tuesday, Mar 13, 2018 06:00 am
Newly-announced provincial funding aimed at fighting crime in rural Alberta is both welcome and much needed, Al Kemmere, a Mountain View County councillor and president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC), told the Gazette.
There has been a marked increase in property and break-in crimes in Mountain View County and other parts of rural Alberta in recent months.
On March 9 the Notley government announced that it would provide an additional $10 million to fight rural crime, with some of the funding being used to hire more RCMP officers, civilian staff and Crown prosecutors.
“In recent years, crime rates have been rising in rural Alberta,” said Kemmere. “The cause of this increase is complicated, and there are no easy solutions.
“We are pleased by the government of Alberta’s investment and commitment to working with the AAMDC, rural municipalities, the RCMP and other partners to develop approaches to curb rural crime.
“We are confident that the province’s investment in a crime-reduction strategy, intelligence-led policing and a centralized data centre will go a long way to proactively address some of the issues being experienced related to rural crime.”
Improving information-sharing amongst law enforcement agencies and rural Albertans is an excellent next step towards addressing this serious issue,” he said.
Under the seven-point plan announced last week, 39 new officers and 40 civilian staff will be hired, along with additional Crown prosecutors.
Provincial Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said she hopes the new funds will help reduce rural crime.
“All Albertans deserve to be safe in their homes and communities,” said Ganley. “With the help of our valued partners in the RCMP, we have developed a detailed plan to protect rural Albertans and their property.
“While there’s no single, easy solution to fix rural crime, our strategy puts several important tools in the crime-fighting toolbox. More civilian staff means more frontline officers on the street, while more Crown prosecutors will mean more timely access to justice.”
Key elements of the new plan include the following:
• Crime reduction units: Specially trained officers will focus on arresting prolific offenders. This initiative will expand on a successful pilot project in Central Alberta.
• Specialized police intelligence: Six additional intelligence-focused RCMP officers plus four crime analyst positions will allow the RCMP to identify prolific offenders and target organized crime.
• Policing support centre: RCMP officers need to be on the streets protecting our communities, not behind a desk filling out paperwork. Twenty-three civilians will input investigative updates dictated over the phone by officers.
• More Crown prosecutors: $2 million will allow the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to hire up to 10 Crown prosecutors who will focus solely on rural crime.
• Better coordination: Sharing information with Alberta sheriffs, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and conservation officers will effectively make these officials additional “eyes and ears” for police.
• Enhanced technology: The RCMP will work with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General and other partners to explore new ways of using technology to target rural crime, including bait programs.
• Public education and engagement: The RCMP will engage and educate Albertans about crime prevention.
Meanwhile, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre United Conservative Party (UCP) MLA Jason Nixon says he plans to push the government during the spring session of the legislature to do all it can to fight rural crime.
The official Opposition house leader for the UCP, Nixon has been working with police, fellow elected officials and other stakeholders to address rural crime issues and seek solutions.
Nixon says he hopes to make rural crime front and centre during the spring session.
“I’ve been pushing on the rural crime file for two years, including during the last fall session,” said Nixon.
“I will be working to make sure it is a prominent issue that is discussed in the spring sitting. We are looking at possibly bringing some more motions forward with the government to see if we can get some serious action.
“We will continue to raise this issue to keep it front and centre and hopefully we will get some cooperation from the NDP on it.”
UCP MLAs have been co-hosting public open houses across the province in recent months, including at Eagle Hill last month, to gather public input on rural crime issues and concerns.
During the Eagle Hill town hall, RCMP Superintendent Garrett Woolsey said police have seen a significant increase in property crimes in rural Alberta.
“We’ve seen increasing crime rates across the board. We’re aware it is a major league issue for everyone,” said Woolsey, one of the highest-ranking RCMP officers in Alberta.
Over the coming weeks and months, Nixon says he plans to compile the input gathered at the town halls and use it to prepare a report for the legislature.
“We will be talking about the things we have been learning through the town halls and other consultations with Albertans on this issue,” he said.
“We are working towards a finalized report from our task force, which will have clear recommendations from what we’ve learned and will be giving the government an opportunity in a bipartisan way to solve the problems.”
The recommendations will also be used as a UCP blueprint on the issue of rural crime going forward, he said.
Meanwhile, Nixon believes the ongoing dispute between Alberta and B.C. over the proposed expansion of the TransMountain pipeline will be a key issue during the spring session.
“We’ve been calling on the NDP for months to take serious action and have serious debate about B.C. blocking our pipeline,” he said. “We will support the government any time we are standing up for Albertans.
“That said, we have some serious questions about whether there are actual concrete actions being presented. We will be asking questions about that and making sure we are not allowing B.C. to kill (the expansion) through delay.”