NDP invests in rural RCMP officers and prosecutors as fed up residents take matters into their own hands

NDP invests in rural RCMP officers and prosecutors as fed up residents take matters into their own hands

Leduc County — Fresh off a throne speech that promised new action to reduce crime in rural Alberta, the NDP government Friday announced $10 million in funding for new RCMP officers, Crown prosecutors and even devices to turn farm equipment into “bait vehicles

Flanked by police vehicles and law enforcement officers at the RCMP Air Services Hanger at Edmonton International Airport, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley announced a seven-point rural crime “action plan” that includes funding for 39 news officers, 40 civilian staff and 10 Crown prosecutors focused on rural crime.

“Some communities in rural Alberta are experiencing the highest property crime rates they’ve seen in five years. Like many Albertans, this spike in criminal activity worries me,” Ganley said.

“The difficulties of policing in rural Alberta are particularly challenging. Our geographic spread means criminals can target isolated properties without protection. It also means police have a large area to cover, which can affect response times. We obviously can’t change Alberta’s geography, but we can listen to its citizens’ concerns and take concrete action.”

In addition to the new officers and staff, the plan includes funding for a policing support centre staffed by civilians to help officers fill out paperwork, crime analysts and “intelligence-focused” RCMP members to target prolific offenders, “bait” vehicle programs in rural areas and additional funding for crime prevention.

Alberta RCMP deputy commissioner Todd Shean did not say specifically where and when the new officers will be deployed, but said some are already at work. He also could not immediately provide statistics on how Alberta’s overall rural crime rate has changed. But Statistics Canada data shows that in some Alberta communities, property crime rates jumped as much as 80 per cent between 2015 and 2016. In others, crime declined.

In addition to the new officers and staff, the plan includes funding for a policing support centre staffed by civilians to help officers fill out paperwork, crime analysts and “intelligence-focused” RCMP members to target prolific offenders, “bait” vehicle programs in rural areas and additional funding for crime prevention.

Jeff Wagar, an electrician who lives and farms near Redwater, described a once-peaceful community forced to lock its doors and build fences to keep out thieves.

Since the end of 2016, his workshop has been broken into multiple times and his truck was stolen, forcing him to buy cameras and motion detectors. He sometimes has carried a rifle when confronting people he doesn’t know on his property.

“It’s terrifying,” he said. “I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in probably three years.”

NDP invests in rural RCMP officers and prosecutors as fed up residents take matters into their own hands