City of Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam (far left), County of Wetaskiwin Reeve Josh Bishop (second to the left), Commanding Officer of the Wetaskiwin RCMP Inspector Keith Durance (second to the right), and MLA Rick Wilson (far right) in front of the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam (far left), County of Wetaskiwin Reeve Josh Bishop (second to the left), Commanding Officer of the Wetaskiwin RCMP Inspector Keith Durance (second to the right), and MLA Rick Wilson (far right) in front of the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

City of Wetaskiwin awarded $5.1 million grant for additional RCMP officers

10 Additional RCMP officers to serve the City of Wetaskiwin as a result of the grant.

The City of Wetaskiwin has been awarded a $5.1 million grant from the Government of Alberta for 10 additional RCMP members over three years to serve the city.

“Through tireless advocacy, as well as a good working relationship with the province and Minister Madu, the City of Wetaskiwin will be receiving 10 additional RCMP members for the next three years. Currently, Wetaskiwin RCMP officers respond to twice the provincial average of Criminal Code calls for service, and Wetaskiwin’s crime severity index is two and a half times higher than the provincial average. I am grateful for the work that Wetaskiwin city council and city administration have done in helping secure this much-needed grant,” says Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam.

The RCMP will establish a six-member regional crime reduction unit targeting high-risk and repeat offenders as well as adding four officers to the City of Wetaskiwin’s municipal policing contingent.

“Sustained increases in crime in Wetaskiwin over the past five years demand action,” says Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu. “This plan will put more officers where they’re needed, and will support intelligence-led policing that focuses investigative efforts on repeat offenders who are often responsible for a disproportionately large share of crime.”

Between 2015 and 2019, Statistics Canada recorded a 52 per cent increase in the City of Wetaskiwin’s crime severity index. During the same time the property crime rate increased 50 per cent.

A crime reduction unit based in Wetaskiwin will operate in the city and surrounding rural areas. The unit will also be capable of sharing intelligence and coordinating investigations with RCMP teams in neighbouring jurisdictions.

The new unit will be funded under the provincial police service agreement, which splits the costs of policing in small and rural communities between the provincial government and the federal government.

The provincial government’s contribution of 70 per cent will be an estimated $1 million a year.

In addition to the provincial police service agreement, a grant between the provincial government and the City of Wetaskiwin will add four new RCMP members to the Wetaskiwin’s current 27 officers.

“The biggest piece here is member wellness because you’ve got to remember the members were doing double the criminal code file of the provincial average,” Commanding Officer of the Wetaskiwin RCMP, Inspector Keith Durance, says on the impact new officers will have for the Wetaskiwin RCMP.

“So they are working twice as hard as other members in other detachments. There are other busy offices out there, we are not the only one that’s busy, but they are doing double the number of criminal code file per member.”

Durance says that the new officers coming in is a huge boost in morale for the current team and will go a long way in preventing officer burnout as well as promoting Wetaskiwin as a location that RCMP choose to stay in longer.

“The 10 members that we got [are] going to be a significant advantage in multiple areas inside the detachment. Not just enforcement, not just boots on the ground, not extra skill set members with more experience coming, but the big piece is extra members on the front lines so it takes the stress off the ones that have been here and slugging away for years and years with very minimal numbers.”

Durance also says that having additional members will go a long way in helping reduce and react to rural crime in the County of Wetaskiwin.

The Government of Alberta will contribute just over $2 million to help fund the new positions for three years.

The time-limited grant is intended to help the municipality respond to an immediate need for more police. After three years the City of Wetaskiwin will assume funding responsibility for these additional positions.

“This grant was given to the City for two big reasons,” says Gandam.

“The first was to help with our crime rate. Being ranked as Alberta’s most dangerous city for a few consecutive years, as well as our RCMP members responding to twice a provincial average of criminal code calls for service. This will also address member burn out, as well as support our dedicated officers in taking care of their mental health.

“The second reason we received this grant was because of the work the city is doing to address the mental health and addictions issues we have in Wetaskiwin. We wouldn’t be able to address our crime rate without addressing the root of the problem. We can’t police our way out of this. Having the open door operating in Wetaskiwin with programming available for our vulnerable population has had a significant impact on our crime rate. It has also decreased our RCMP calls for service responding to nuisance calls like drinking in public, panhandling and harassment, allowing the RCMP to focus on prolific offenders. We have also seen a significant decrease to the number of people who end up in cells or at the Wetaskiwin hospital.”



shaela.dansereau@pipestoneflyer.ca

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