Wetaskiwin’s RCMP detachment opened the year with a series of open houses with the public to hear resident’s concerns and gain insight for the detachment’s annual performance plan.
Insp. Keith Durance presented the open house results to County of Wetaskiwin councillors during their March 13 meeting.
“Property crime was a big piece,” said Durance.
Other concerns raised during the open houses held in the City of Wetaskiwin, Town of Millet, and within the County of Wetaskiwin included RCMP presence, prolific offenders, community patrols, youth engagement, distracted driving, traffic safety, school resource officers and cannabis legislation.
Through the City of Wetaskiwin’s 2018 budget, funding for two RCMP members to be placed on Wetaskiwin RCMP’s crime reduction team was approved. Already at two members, Durance says he hopes to have the four bodies in place by late summer of this year.
Durance added later this year the province will be putting forth its own crime reduction team as part of a pilot project.
Councillors had many questions and concerns for Durance, many focused on rural crime.
“I agree the number one priority is crime reduction and property crime. That’s the biggest issue out there as far as I’m concerned,” said Coun. Lyle Seely.
Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers says she is hearing from residents they are frustrated with the lack of serious sentencing in the courts and case backlogs, which is pushing some people to consider reaching for guns for protection. “It’s not just stuff. It’s a violation. If you get robbed you don’t feel safe.”
She added response times are also a concern of rural citizens.
RCMP and the crime reduction team are focusing on prolific offenders, so those who continue to commit crimes in the community will become a target of the RCMP, says Durance. “They will be focusing on the eight to 10 per cent doing 80 per cent of the crime.”
“The crew members are keeping a running tally and a robust bail package,” he added.
When it comes to residents combating the fear factor that comes with rural crime Durance says it is up to the RCMP to communicate with the people that crimes are being solved. “That’s our piece, to get the real stories out there.”
“What happened in Saskatchewan, we wouldn’t want that to happen here,” said Coun. Dale Woitt. He added when people are frightened they do not make the best decisions. Woitt says he does not want the fear factor to lead to more violence.
Rooyakkers says she understands Woitt’s point on avoiding violence but she says rural residents, especially the elderly, are looking for a way to protect themselves.
Coun. Josh Bishop explained since his election he has noticed a growing concern in ratepayers regarding impaired drivers following the legalization of marijuana.