With criminals using social media more and more these days as part of their operations, local rural residents are being encouraged to counter the threat by getting to know their neighbours as never before.
That’s one of the messages from Olds-Sundre-Didsbury Rural Crime Watch Association (RCW) president Gerald Ingeveld heading into 2018.
Rural crime such as vehicle thefts and break-ins at farms, ranches, businesses and other properties continues in the region at the same or even greater rates than a year ago, he said.
And many of the criminals coming out to rural areas are organized as never before, he said.
“The communication among crooks is very good now,” said Ingeveld. “They are hooking up on Facebook and Pinterest and of course they all have cellphones in their pockets.
“Somebody wanders through a place and then they make a couple of phone calls and they have a buyer for something before they even swipe it. They are stealing stuff and they have a place for it to go immediately.”
As such, any and all efforts to fight the criminals are needed and welcome, he said.
One of those efforts can involve property owners and business owners helping police by reporting suspicious activities and persons, he said.
And a big part of being able to report crimes is being able to know who should and who should not be in the area, he said.
“From our viewpoint, from a rural crime watch point of view, we’ve become a sit back and watch kind of group, and that helps,” he said. “Get to know your neighbours.
“It used to be that we knew all our neighbours and if there was an unusual vehicle we knew it. We are becoming so populated that we don’t always know our neighbours or our neighbour’s vehicle.”
The local RCW group works with local police and other stakeholders to report criminal activities through a report and call-out system.
The group also helps residents and businesses protect their homes and properties by deterring criminals from committing crimes in the first place, he said.
As part of that effort, members of the local RCW will be working with area citizen patrol groups in 2018, he said.
“We are going to have to get mobile again,” he said. “Sundre has a new citizens on patrol group recently started up after a couple years of absence, and Olds also has one started up again.
“They can be partnered with our rural crime watch members so we can be eyes and ears, as well as getting out in the community.
“Hopefully that will have an effect on the people who are out there doing this stuff.”
Other crime watch groups and related organizations are really starting to work together to combat crime, he said.
“There is a provincial meeting come up in February,” he said. “We will be looking at getting all of the crime watch groups from across Alberta together for that.”
Ingeveld is also on the board of the provincial RCW association.
“The provincial organization is going to be coming together with citizens on patrol in Central Alberta to look at common needs and some common ground and that kind of thing,” he said.
“It is really interesting how both the federal opposition parties and the provincial opposition parties have started travelling around the province doing workshops on what is going on with rural crime, and nothing good is going on.
“I find it interesting that they are doing that.”
Pushing criminals out of the district remains one of the goals of RCW, he said.
“We want the information to get out to the criminals that we are out there watching,” he said. “That doesn’t make the crooks want to stop committing crimes and go back to school to become lawyers or accountants, but it can drive them back towards the urban centres.”
Property owners can help deter crime by making sure their yards are well lit and that they have gates in place, he said.
For more information on RCW and its fan-out system, see the oldruralcrimewatch.ca.
Meanwhile, the Olds-Sundre-Didsbury Rural Crime Watch Association offers the following helpful tips to protect your property:
• For a more affordable alternative to expensive security systems, put a home security sign in your yard without actually obtaining the service. The sign convinces would-be burglars that your home is in fact protected by a security system, which makes them less inclined to target your property.
• Beware of the garage: Garages are a common entry point for burglars. Open garage doors serve to advertise your belongings to passersby, which increases the likelihood of theft. So, homeowners should make sure their garage door remains closed any time, present or not. Leave the would-be burglar wondering.
• Be a good neighbour: Neighbours can play a key role in preventing home thefts. Homeowners on friendly terms with their neighbours are less likely to be victimized by other members of their community. At the same time, close-knit neighbours are more likely to call the police if they see someone suspicious poking around your property. If they like you and they care about you and they are concerned about their community, if they see something unusual going on they will check it out or call the police.
• Keep valuables outside the bedroom: A burglar on the hunt for valuables in a home will make the master bedroom their first stop since that’s where the cash and jewelry are most commonly stored. So, if you do keep such valuables on your property, find another room to store them.
• Burglars prefer to target homes that have hiding spots and escape routes in the yards, and abundant bushes and trees make for great cover. As a result, yards with less shrubbery and more open spaces aren’t particularly appealing targets.
• Install motion sensors: Light is a great deterrent for nighttime break-ins. It is recommended that homeowners install motion sensors on outdoor lights that turn on automatically if someone triggers them.
• Radio running: Noise helps prevent burglaries as well. Leave the radio on all day so that would-be burglars think that someone is at home.
• Homeowners should be sure to remember the basics of home-theft prevention: keeping windows and doors locked at all times.
“We want the information to get out to the criminals that we are out there watching.”