MLA Dr. Richard Starke is going to have a few issues to bring to the table in the fall sitting of the legislature following Wednesday’s Rural Crime Town Hall in Mannville.
Panelists, including RCMP members, a St. Paul Crown Prosecutor, a Crime Watch member, a victim services representative and a former drug addict/convict, were invited to the meeting to explain their point of view on rural crime, what needs to be done and to take questions from the audience.
One of those audience members was Kitscoty area resident and a personal victim of crime, Glenda Elkow.
“It’s a horrible feeling, somebody’s been in our property, snooping around, doing whatever they want, looking things over. They’re determined and we need to be more determined to shut this down somehow. I am very concerned that something drastic is going to happen, somebody’s going to lose their life if there isn’t a change to this. I don’t think us as citizens are going to put up with the kind of activity that been going on and it’s rampant.”
Sergeant Jane Boehr from the Vermilion RCMP says there has been a jump in the number of reported property crimes, especially out of the Kitscoty detachment. She adds that since September, they have been quite busy with an increase in thefts of vehicles.
“I think [the town hall] was actually quite beneficial just to see where the folks were coming from, the community members were coming from and their thoughts on what’s happening in the community. I think it was good, hopefully, for them as well to hear about some of the things that we are doing so they have a bit of a better idea what it takes to do some of the investigation and to police a rural community.”
Boehr adds, “I think change can take time. It’s something that people like Dr. Starke needs to deal with on the government level. For us, I just think it’s understanding what is at the heart of their frustrations and maybe we can look at somethings that we could do a little different and improve communications.”
Elkow says, “I was surprised to learn that rural Alberta does not have 24/7 rural policing. [The police’s] recommendation was cameras are a good idea, good lighting is a good idea, make sure they think someone is around. If we had more police presence, that would also be a good deterrent. We have to start lobbying whatever politicians it takes to get more rural policing. It’s not acceptable. The criminals know that out here in the rural area, [the police] could be 15 minutes away, they could be an hour away.”
Starke does intend to take issues that were brought to light from the town hall forward.
“Certainly the concern about RCMP resourcing and having officers on the ground and available to respond more quickly to the concerns; the need to address some of the root causes through proper resources for mental health and addictions; and some of the problems within the justice system as well. Clearly the presence of drugs in our remand system is an issue.”
He goes on to say, “just the overall degree of concern that this has for rural residents. I’m not sure that our Justice Minister or our government really grasps how big an issue this is.”
Starke says he has “absolutely” seen an increase in people contacting him with concerns. The MLA advises residents to continue contacting his office with concerns and to raise the issue with the local MP’s as well.
“I really want to encourage people not to take sort of a defeatist, ‘what’s the point I’m not going to call in this incident or call in this complaint.’ The RCMP really need to know what the whole picture is. Yes, they are very taxed in terms of their resources but they need to know what the total, full incidence is and anything people can do in terms of participation with Crime Watch or Citizens on Patrol to gather evidence and be the extra set of eyes on ears out on the road, I think is very helpful.”
As for Elkow, she says she believes this is a good start and she hopes there will be change.