Cases of rural property crime have decreased in Alberta since the province partnered with the RCMP to establish new units to tackle the issue.
Following her speech to rural representatives at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention, Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley said property crime across rural Alberta has dropped by 11 percent.
She said the decrease means 366 fewer break-ins, 648 fewer vehicle thefts and 2,400 fewer thefts of other property, but there’s still more work to be done to tackle the issue.
“We’re having an impact on bringing down statistics, but it hasn’t affected every area equally,” she said, speaking with reporters via teleconference.
“It continues to be a concern and we are willing to work with RCMP partners, ensuring we are being constantly vigilant in doing the best job we can.”
The province unveiled a rural crime strategy in early 2018 to deal with growing concerns over thefts and break-and-enters.
As part of the strategy, it created four rural crime reduction units in the province, which serve specific regions. The units contain a specialized group of RCMP officers who focus on chronic offenders in their areas, freeing up time for local detachments to deal with other pressing issues in their communities.
As well, the province established separate units to deal with calls and data collection, allowing officers to spend more time in the field rather than behind a desk.
Ganley said the new call-back unit saved more than 9,000 hours of officer time, which represents a workload of about nine general-duty constables per year.
“The RCMP worked hard on this and we’re seeing the results,” she said.
“We’re proud of the job they are doing to move us forward on this issue.”
Despite the improvement, crime continues to take a toll on rural communities.
During the convention, some rural delegates raised concerns with the minister, wondering if more could be done to free up officer time so they can do more work in the field.
Some were wondering if peace officers or sheriffs could help deal with crime. In response, Ganley said the government is looking at ways to potentially allow that, though there have been no firm commitments.
As well, there have been calls by conservative politicians to address rural crime differently.
In an Alberta United Conservative Party report, the opposition party has recommended that the Criminal Code of Canada be changed to support the use of force for self-defence.
As well, a report released by Conservative MPs from Alberta said RCMP contracts should be reviewed to see if they are sufficient or if the service should be replaced by a provincial police force. This suggestion was put forward by the MPs’ constituents.
In response to the idea of a provincial police force, Ganley said now would not be the best time to launch one.
She said the government was able to act quickly on the issue by establishing the rural crime reduction units with the RCMP.
As for potentially allowing people to use force to defend property, she said she supports the RCMP’s position on the issue, which is to let police officers deal with law enforcement.