Rural Albertans can expect more RCMP officers on the ground, more civilian staff and more crown prosecutors to fight crime in their communities.
The strategy, outlined by the province Friday, will cost $10 million. It includes 39 new officers, 40 civilian staff and anywhere from eight to 10 crown prosecutors. As well, the plan includes tracking technologies for farm equipment and better co-ordination between RCMP detachments.
“Some communities in rural Alberta are experiencing the highest property crime rates they’ve seen in five years,” said justice minister and solicitor general Kathleen Ganley, during the funding announcement. “Like many Albertans, this spike in rural crime worries me.”
One of the main focuses of the strategy involves four crime reduction units. The units will include officers who are specifically trained for arresting high-profile criminals, and ones who are trained to do intelligence and criminal analysis. To ensure officers are on the ground, civilian employees will be hired to do much of the paperwork. They will also provide officers with investigative updates over the phone.
As well, the units will co-ordinate with one another to target criminal hot-spots in the province. They will also work with Alberta sheriffs, Fish and Wildlife officers, commercial vehicle enforcement and conservation officers.
The 39 new officers will be divided equally among the units, but they could be moved around if some areas require more resources. In fact, some officers are already out working, according to Todd Shean, the deputy commissioner and commanding officer with the Alberta RCMP.
“This will allow us to respond to crime trends with a precise, rapid and informed strategy,” Shean said during the news conference. “We can’t do targeted operations without them (the crime reduction units).”
As well, police will work with people in the community when it comes to tracking. For example, Shean said officers will work with groups to place tracking devices on vehicles or farm equipment so they can follow it if it’s stolen.
“If we have areas of the province being targeted, we would partner with those areas and have an agreement where we could have bait vehicles or bait tractors,” he explained.
While many agree the new funding will be helpful, the rise in rural crime across the Prairies has been alarming for farmers and ranchers.
Most producers argue the system is broken, and that thieves who intrude on their land should face harsher sentences. As well, even though it’s against the law, some have also suggested they have a right to protect their property with whatever means necessary, even if it’s with a gun.
But Shean said any crime should be left for law enforcement to deal with.
“What we’re asking here is for Albertans to partner with us,” he said. “Make that call and allow our officers that are highly skilled and highly trained to respond to those calls for service.”
He said the days of leaving keys in cars and not locking doors are over.
“You want to make those crimes harder to commit by locking up and creating a protective environment,” he said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of reporting criminal activity. Risking personal safety is unnecessary and dangerous.”
The entire province of Alberta, both urban and rural, has seen about a 35 per cent spike in property crime from 2011 to 2016, according to Statistics Canada. Saskatchewan has seen an increase of about 4 per cent and Manitoba has experienced about a 10 per cent increase.