A well-known farmer, businessman, community advocate and president of the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch is one of this year’s Justice and Solicitor General 25th Annual Alberta Community Justice Award recipients.
Tully Johnson also received the award last year and was blindsided at the recognition this year. “It was just overwhelming.”
Johnson’s daughter nominated him in 2015 for the award and was asked by the nomination committee to resubmit his name in 2016.
During an interview with the Pipestone Flyer Johnson says he was approached by a member of the nomination committee, who told Johnson as soon as he read his biography he became his first pick for the award.
Another woman gushed to Johnson she has read his biography six times. “I was starting to get embarrassed. This plaque I got last year was sufficient enough for me,” said Johnson.
Johnson is a founding member of the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch, after a farmer/businessman who lived in the area suggested the idea in 1984. Meetings were held at the Rosebrier School, giving the group its moniker.
“At that time we were having all this trouble south of town,” said Johnson.
There was a string of thefts plaguing the community. “It got everybody riled up,” said Johnson.
From the original five board members the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch has grown to 112 involved families whom Johnson has using the more traditional phone fan-out system. “It’s still the best system there is … Everyone has a phone.”
While others are moving more toward the Internet, Johnson says some seniors cannot use the Internet and it is not always easily accessible in rural areas.
Johnson places a focus on a mix of efficiency and intelligence to keep the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch effective and thriving.
Before any information is released through the crime watch Johnson requires the information to first be reported to the RCMP, to vet out any false claims or misdirection. “They could just run you ragged.”
Johnson names the RCMP as one of the instrumental factors of a healthy crime watch association. “You can’t run a crime watch without RCMP.”
He explains approximately every 10 days or so he pops in on his Wetaskiwin RCMP partners to catch up on any new information and keep the relationship between the two organizations strong.
His efforts in continual communication have resulted in the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch being given its own RCMP liaison, which Johnson proudly explained he was able to handpick.
Approximately five years ago Johnson was asked to be a part of a round table discussion in Ottawa, regarding crime in rural areas.
Johnson made it clear he felt rural areas needed protection from those who understood the vulnerabilities and lifestyle of those areas. “I ripped the RCMP at that time. I said I would not accept an RCMP (liaison) who did not have an agricultural background.”
“You’ve got to know which end of the cow to feed. It’s the most important thing to me,” he added.
Despite being asked to take on more area over the years Johnson says he’s kept the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch small to retain a sense of community and efficiency. “Today it’s a necessity to have a rural crime watch.”
Dissolution is an ongoing concern for rural crime watch associations and to help garner more interest Johnson also forged partnerships with Wetaskiwin Victim Services and 4-H clubs.
In 2010 the crime watch group faced low numbers and Johnson asked for one year to grow it back to a healthy state. In 2011 he was elected president of the Rosebrier Rural Crime Watch and was elected to the provincial Rural Crime Watch board of directors in 2012.
“This crime watch has become my thing because people thought I couldn’t get it going,” said Johnson.