Some readers may think the crime prevalent in the region is related to the oil patch downturn. Regardless, most communities in this area are more aware than ever of property crime.
Recently, several RCMP detachments across Alberta have shone a light on increased workload and voiced concern about what appears to be a crime spike. Police and service providers in the Wetaskiwin area feel they are seeing the same thing.
Petra Pfeiffer, executive director of Wetaskiwin and District Victim Services, said the organization is seeing the results of break and enter and other crime. “Of course we are,” she said Feb. 10 at the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment.
Cst. Johnson, a member of the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment, stated that break and enter can be even more frustrating because some people and places seem to be targeted over and over again by criminals.
Cst. Johnson noted that break and enter can include local perpetrators, while some are professional criminals who may be connected to the illegal drug world and also have connections to weapons.
Pfeiffer noted that crime-proofing a home isn’t necessarily that difficult or that expensive. Both she and Cst. Johnson had a number of suggestions for local readers.
Pfeiffer noted many hardware retailers sell home security equipment that isn’t prohibitively expensive. Most can be easily installed. Some suggestions include noisemakers and alarms, which for the cost can be very effective, along with motion-sensing lights; Johnson noted burglars tend not to like bright lights or noise.
Windows are always an attractive entry point for burglars; reinforce them with rods where windows slide back and forth to prevent opening. Also, window tint is available which prevents anyone outside looking in.
Cameras are always useful, especially if a burglar is caught and prosecuted as the video or photos are solid evidence. Johnson noted trail cameras, that snap photos based on subject motion, are also popular.
Serious security systems that usually involve a monthly fee are also available.
Pfeiffer suggested neighbours get to know and look out for each other; when neighbours know who belongs where, a burglar or strange vehicle is going to stick out like a sore thumb. For those who have the means, a guard dog is a great idea.
When it comes to vehicle break-ins, Johnson said in her experience simply locking the vehicle and keeping valuables out of sight are the best strategies as burglars try the doors, find them locked then move on. “Don’t leave your keys in your car,” said Johnson. “I’ve seen very few broken doors.” She said if you keep valuables out of plain sight, it gives the burglar no reason to break in.
Pfeiffer agreed. “Locking your doors, that’s so important,” said Pfeiffer. “Both your homes and your vehicles.”
After the break and enter
Pfeiffer said victim services knows and understands the aftermath of a break and enter, as she’s seen the victims on past occasions. “Your house is usually your safe place,” said Pfeiffer. She noted it’s normal for victims of break and enter to have anxiety afterwards.
The extra security options mentioned above could help ease anxiety she noted. Another suggestion is to have some extra family or friends stay over for a while.
Cst. Johnson noted that if a victim is having trouble bouncing back from a break and enter, they could find relief by talking to a professional therapist.
Avoid “posse” mentality
It’s inferred on some community Facebook pages that if residents see someone suspicious, they may confront the suspect, perhaps violently. It’s understandable that people are frustrated with property crime.
Cst. Johnson said when residents of the area see or hear something suspicious, they should call police. “Do not engage the person, some can be under the influence, some can have access to weapons,” said Cst. Johnson.
The RCMP officer said the best and most useful thing a resident can do is be a good witness for RCMP. The most helpful things they can do is write down license plate numbers and get an accurate description of both suspects and their vehicles including things like tattoos on people and markings on vehicles. If possible, take photos of suspects if it’s safe to do so.