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Small communities could start paying for policing

Small Alberta municipalities could be looking at paying more for their policing services.

The provincial government is reviewing its policing cost formula. Currently, municipalities under 5,000 residents and other rural districts have their policing costs covered by the province at a cost of almost $233 million a year. The new model would have rural communities cover between 15 to 70 per cent of the policing costs.

Chief Administrative Officer for the village of Kitscoty Sharon Williams says the formula is still under consultation with municipalities providing feedback to the government.

“This information was provided to municipalities regarding calls for equitable funding for police services across the province. Our cost, if this was put into place, could be anywhere from $21,000 per year to just under $100,000 per year.” 

Williams says the formula is based on the percentage of the population and the percentage of equalized assessment.

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Mayor of Vermilion Caroline McAuley says the town is in need of more officers to look after rural crime but additional costs could potentially hurt the town.

“It would be a significant cost and they would spread that cost over the rural municipalities and counties as well as the urban. The rural municipalities have never paid and it’s always been the urban municipalities that have [paid].”

McAuley says the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has been looking at different ways to tackle rural crime for the past several years and counties have started paying for additional officers. McAuley says the County of Vermilion River has provided the town with two more officers.

“The officers that we get provided by the provincial government are not able to keep up and the county has actually provided funding. A common thing that’s starting to happen as well is counties, even though they’re not required to pay, they recognize that something has to happen and they’re putting money forward and paying for officers out of their own tax dollars.”

McAuley says policing in Vermilion is fluid as crimes often happen on the outskirts of the town.

“I think the bigger issue for us is rural crime and the struggle we’re having with crime happening in broad daylight. We are really looking at the government to say how we are going to address rural crime. If that means we need to look at the bigger picture about how we all share the cost then maybe that’s something that happens.” 

There are 291 rural communities in the province which represents about 20 per cent of the Alberta population.

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