Farmers on edge over crime fears

Saskatchewan RCMP are urging rural residents to report crime to police rather than dealing with incidents themselves.

Social media sites last week were full of photographs of combines and truck cabs containing guns as people arm themselves for protection.

A number of recent high-profile incidents have people concerned. Farmers are worried that farmyards and families are unprotected during the busy harvest season.

On Sept. 19, three people, reportedly armed with handguns and with faces covered, attempted to rob a farm worker on a road near Fiske. That led to a lockdown of rural schools in the area.

In August, a fatal shooting on a farm near Biggar led to second-degree murder charges against a farmer, escalating debate over racial tensions and the right to defend property.

“Let us do our jobs,” said RCMP Sgt. Earl LeBlanc in response to the social media photographs. “We don’t want to see people getting hurt.”

Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan president Norm Hall, who farms near Wynyard, said he doesn’t normally carry a gun.

However, he understands why farmers are nervous.

“Usually the worst thing you have to protect yourself against is wild animals, not wild people,” he said.

Hall said he isn’t hearing from worried farmers, and if nothing else the social media campaign should indicate to those who might consider committing crime in rural areas that farmers aren’t afraid to protect themselves.

Some people said they have to protect themselves because RCMP response times are so long. Hall said that’s likely because in some places detachments have amalgamated or are short personnel.

“There are challenges but we deploy our resources based on the needs,” LeBlanc said in response to reporters’ questions about staffing levels.

He said residents can be assured that officers will deal with any situation reported to them.

The RCMP didn’t have specific details on whether crime is increasing overall or in certain rural areas.

LeBlanc reminded gun owners that firearms must be properly stowed and secured.

“We’re aware that individuals will carry some firearms out for hunting reasons, or even farming reasons, but what we don’t want people to do is to carry them for their own protection or for what they feel that is to protect others,” he said.

karen.briere@producer.com

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