For Wetaskiwin RCMP, and most of province, the biggest concern when it comes to crime these days is property crime.
Insp. Fran Bethell attended Wetaskiwin County council’s Nov. 3 meeting to present the Wetaskiwin RCMP’s annual review. She says while other areas such as mischief are also seeing an increase, property crime remains most troublesome.
“This is a common theme many communities have been experiencing in 2015,” said Bethell.
She attributes the climbing number partially to the economic downturn and a series of heavily drug addicted individuals returning to the area. “They’re trying to support their habits.”
Tactics the RCMP are using to combat the criminal activity include bait vehicles, keeping a sharp focus on prolific offenders and helicopter searches of rural areas, “Hoping that we find some stolen property on acreages that were a concern to us,” said Bethell.
In September the RCMP caught a group of eight individuals plaguing Wetaskiwin County; three were young offenders.
Wetaskiwin RCMP also have an agreement with Wetaskiwin County to provide enhanced policing services for a total of 550 hours. Bethell says the enhancement program helped with the successes the RCMP have seen. “Our presence seemed to make a difference.”
Other areas of focus include counter-attack traffic check stops and drug enforcement. Bethell says while most drug dealers live right in Wetaskiwin people are migrating cross-county for product and services.
Coun. Gary Dearing questioned whether or not the possible legalization of marijuana would cause additional concern. Bethell does not feel it will make a huge difference but says it is hard to tell until changes come into effect. “We’re typically targeting people dealing in more manufactured drugs.”
Wetaskiwin County emergency services
Director of emergency services Mike Zajac says his department has seen an increase in calls over 2014.
“This year’s not even done yet and we’re pretty much higher in every single department,” said Zajac.
Service calls from January to October approximately total: 28 alarms, 36 EMS/STARS assists, 55 outside fires, 19 motor vehicle fires, 23 structure fires, 66 motor vehicle accidents, five gas odor/leaks, one water rescue, 11 mutual aids, two downed power lines and 29 others.
CAO Frank Coutney says in terms of outside fires Wetaskiwin County was lucky this year, as most people seemed to respect the fire ban in place due to the drought.
“We were pretty proactive getting that ban on early enough,” said Zajac. He added, without the ban the number of fires could have been “drastically” higher.