Rural property crime has dropped by 10 percent this year, according to Saskatchewan RCMP, but that doesn’t give Herb Axten much comfort.
The reeve of the Rural Municipality of Surprise Valley lives 110 kilometres away from the nearest RCMP detachment in Weyburn, Sask.
He put assistant RCMP commissioner Curtis Zablocki on the spot at last week’s Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities meeting when he asked if he supported people taking matters into their own hands.
“What do I do when a group of hoodlums approaches me or members of my family in my yard and I dial 911 and I don’t get any response until the next day? Would you support a stand your ground law as is enforced in the state of Montana?” he said.
Axten said the provincial justice minister did not support rural councillors when they passed a resolution last spring to lobby for the right to protect themselves and their property.
“Let’s be honest. It’s the only protection we have,” he said, as other delegates applauded.
Zablocki said he understood the concern. One of the inherent challenges in rural policing is the large geographical area and response time, he said.
However, he said he is also concerned about adding firearms to a situation that could already be dangerous.
“We know that with that type of a response, that can often up the potential for violence in those types of situations,” he said.
He advised Axten to call 911 and wait for police.
“Secure yourselves as best as you can on your property in your residence and await the police arrival,” Zablocki said.
Saskatchewan’s commanding officer said that while property crime is at 1981 levels, violent crime in RCMP jurisdictions is up seven percent over last year. Homicides are down 25 percent.
However, he said much of the violence occurs between and within gangs. There is a strong and strategic effort to try to bring gang violence under control, particularly in west-central regions where the West Side Outlaws have become established.
Communities are becoming pro-active and holding meetings about how to deal with crime.
Fifty-five RMs have now joined Rural Crime Watch.
Zablocki also said the recommendations from the premier’s task force on rural crime will make a difference through enhanced visibility and quicker response.
The Protection and Response Team will include conservation officers, commercial vehicle enforcement officers and police.
In an interview, Zablocki said that effort is still in preliminary stages.
“By adding 30 new traffic officers onto the highways, I think we’re going to enhance (service),” he said. “That will allow our members that are stationed out of our de-tachments to spend more time on some of the core policing functions in their respective areas.”