County of Wetaskiwin hears about police approach to cannabis impairment

Thorsby RCMP say much crime involves small number of perpetrators

RCMP commanders made their quarterly report to County of Wetaskiwin council at the regular council meeting Oct. 22.

Wetaskiwin detachment commander Insp. Keith Durance along with Thorsby NCO S/Sgt. Harp Dhaliwal both made reports to council.

County CAO Rod Hawken described what the police would be bringing with them. “At the meeting, the RCMP representatives will be discussing information regarding management of the Annual Performance Plan, which includes details on crime reduction strategies, crime statistics and trends, and also a statistical comparison of crimes within the Wetaskiwin, Thorsby, and Breton Provincial Detachment areas,” stated Hawken in his memo to council.

During the presentation, the county’s enhanced position, an extra RCMP officer for the rural area funded by the county, has never been filled. Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers stated the county may as well wait for the provincial government to finish its rural crime analysis and announce what, if any, changes are going to be made to policing in Alberta.

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats said he hears a lot of rural frustration from residents who feel helpless with the amount of crime, and the fact that residents are powerless to stop it. He said he’s heard some people don’t bother reporting crime because they feel it’s pointless.

Van de Kraats said he was quoting the Justice Minister when he said, “I think we need to have a serious conversation on how this gets fixed. Right now, there’s something drastically wrong.”

Dhaliwal, while discussing policing in the Thorsby area, said he feels the message is getting out to people, as people are regularly reporting crime. Dhaliwal also noted police are well aware that much of the crime seems to involve the same three or four perpetrators.

Councilor Josh Bishop asked what’s being done to test impaired drivers for cannabis impairment.

Dhaliwal said one approach is “DRE,” drug recognition expert, who is a trained police officer who can judge impairment linked to certain drugs. He said this is a North America-wide designation centered around an expert’s opinion on whether a person shows signs consistent with cannabis or drug impairment.

Durance said no roadside screening device is practical; those that are available are large in size, not very portable and rather expensive.

The inspector also told councilors that RCMP in this area work with and cooperate with municipal CPOs with no problems.

Councilor Rooyakkers asked if there is still a victim services branch, as judging by some comments she heard from ratepayers, the service doesn’t have much presence in the west end of the county.

Dhaliwal said there are many presentations made to the community by both victim services and rural crime watch. He said the Thorsby detachment always offers the option of victim services.

Rooyakkers said she knows a family who a late night break and enter, only property was affected, but the victims were quite frightened by it. They never heard from victim services, apparently.

Dhaliwal said there must have been a communication breakdown somewhere that caused that, as the family should have had the option to talk to victim services.

The RCMP mentioned the philosophy of crime prevention through environmental design, a philosophy that encourages property owners to arrange their property in such a way that it discourages crime. For example, all sidewalks are easily viewed, even at night.

Durance gave an update on the staffing level of the Wetaskiwin detachment. He said the detachment is fully staffed except for a front counter vacancy. He also noted, however, “soft” vacancies can exist; these are vacancies that have someone ready to fill them, but that staff member is having some trouble reporting because of an issue such as selling a house.

Durance also noted he continues to work with the City of Wetaskiwin on a bylaw that will apply to pawn shops in the city, as pawn shops are places criminals may try to cash in stolen goods. He said the city ahs put this bylaw off until 2020.

Stu.salkeld@pipestoneflyer.ca

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