Rural crime rates are continuing to climb even while policing resources are being stretched, said RCMP officials during a Sept. 29 news conference in Saskatoon.
“We know Saskatchewan (has) one of the highest crime rates in the country and it’s increasing. Rural crime is a component of that,” said Supt. Mike Gibbs, commander of the central district of the province.
“We have limited resources and a large area to respond to.”
Gibbs and Supt. Kris Vibe, administrative and personnel officer, provided details and strategies to address recent property crime complaints in the province, particularly in the west-central region, which has seen a spike in complaints of property crimes since last year.
Vibe indicated rural staffing is currently stressed in some regions of the province.
“We don’t have the resources to be everywhere in rural Saskatchewan but what we do have is a number of front line police officers and that is 924,” he said.
Vibe said the current vacancy pattern of about two percent is no different than other organizations.
“Although these numbers may seem very low, there are certain times and certain places we’re hit by a perfect storm and we find ourselves short,” he said.
Gibbs said the central region is combining resources with other detachments to form organized extended patrols out on the road.
Strategic mapping of crimes is also occurring with the goal of preventing crimes by increasing efforts to monitor habitual offenders. Gibbs added that the RCMP is also working with other police forces and agencies in the province.
He said he empathizes with people’s frustration, some of whom feel vulnerable and violated when their property is stolen.
“We investigate every complaint we receive but between our resourcing level, the volume and priority of calls and the vast distances our members have to deal with, it can take some time to respond,” he said.
“A person complaining unfortunately of a property crime perhaps would not get the same response as somebody in peril death or serious injury.”
Recent high-profile incidents have some people worried and several farmers have taken their firearms with them during harvest.
Three masked people with handguns reportedly attempted to rob a farm worker on a road near Fiske Sept. 19.
“I’m not going to minimize how people feel, but again the role of the police in this is very important. We need to be concerned about public safety and don’t want people arming themselves and taking action with firearms to defend their property,” said Gibbs.
“That’s what the police do….
“I encourage people not to take matters into their own hands because we don’t want the Wild West. That’s something we’re very concerned about.”