Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins holds up Toward a Safer Alberta: Addressing Rural Crime, which contains the results of the research conducted by the rural crime task force composed of MPs in rural ridings in Alberta. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Rural crime task force results released at Agri-Trade luncheon

Report cites problems with police not being able to keep up with crime and justice system issues

Results of the rural crime task force created by MPs who represent rural ridings in Alberta was released at a Rural Crime symposium in Red Deer on Friday.

The final report, called Toward a Safer Alberta: Addressing Rural Crime, found that Albertans are increasingly troubled about their safety with the increase in crime and felt emphasis should be placed on preventing crime, improving the criminal justice system and creating targeted reforms to address the problem, the report reads.

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins made the presentation at the symposium held during Agri-Trade that focused on creating strategies to deal with the problem of rising crime in rural Alberta. He was also joined by Yellowhead MP Jim Eglinski.

In particular, Calkins said the task force learned that RCMP operating in rural areas have trouble keeping up as crime increases. There are not enough police to cover the large rural areas, he said, and residents are frustrated.

“When you take a look at the number of police officers per square kilometre like the Rocky Mountain House Detachment for example, it has 9,600 square kilometres to cover with a handful of RCMP officers,” he said. “It’s almost an impossible task.”

He said the issue is also with the criminal justice system being too easy on convicted criminals.

“I’m of the opinion, and I think a lot of people that I represent are of the opinion, that our criminal justice system is a revolving door and the catch and release system is actually part of the problem,” he said.

He said police do their job of tracking people who commit crimes down and getting them before courts, but these criminals end up getting released and reoffend.

Another issue Calkins raised was that rural Alberta residents are no longer reporting crimes because it is constantly recurring.

He said this leads to incorrect information being collected and a lack of real knowledge about the crime problem.

“The problem might actually be worse than we think it is,” he said. “Policymakers rely on accurate data so I would always encourage people to report their crimes.”

Results of the task force led to Motion 167, a federal motion to address rural crime getting passed in parliament and the launch of a parliamentary study on rural crime, Calkins said.

Charlene Thomas from Red Deer County attended the luncheon. She said she was glad to hear of the initiative and that there, “Might be some bite behind laws to prevent individuals from carrying out crimes.”

Pat Siebold from Clearwater County said she wanted to find out what solutions were in the works.

“What really came out today was that the police cannot keep up with the crime and that we need to make it a community endeavour,” she said. “I think most farmers are very good about checking in with each other, and we maybe need to ramp that up and start reporting any kind of suspicious behaviour or unknown vehicles.”

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