More police is not the only answer

Citizens themselves can do more to protect themselves and their neighbours from crime.

Crime is an issue that any local resident is concerned about, especially considering the seriousness that many recent crimes were characterized by.

Across Alberta just this year in the Calgary area two grandparents and, unbelievably, their grandson were murdered and a man is facing charges for the crime. A number of remains have been found in or near Edmonton recently and whispers of a repeat murderer have been heard.

Just last week a horrible murder occurred in Edmonton where allegedly a woman was stabbed to death in her apartment after a former boyfriend broke in. Unbelievably, he allegedly broke into another apartment beforehand and was chased out. No one phoned the police. According to police the suspect then found the woman he was apparently looking for and stabbed her to death.

Last week, Leduc city council discussed a recent survey they did of residents to see how happy, or unhappy, citizens were with taxpayer-funded services. For the most part councilors must have been happy with what they heard because Leduc residents seem generally satisfied with what they’re getting for their dollar. However, one remark in the report raised this writer’s eyebrow.

As reported in the Leduc/Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer this week, “The survey was also broken down into larger service categories provided by the city. (The pollster) says there was a significant increase in the general population results and many wish for an increase in spending for police protection. ‘So we did see that on both the stakeholders side and the general population side.’”

Increasing police numbers isn’t by definition a good or bad idea. It’s one way to approach a problem. Citizens should also remember that police service is expensive; RCMP could actually be considered para-military when the depth of their training is examined. An RCMP officer is expected to be a lot of things: patrol officer, detective and traffic expert just to name a few. A conservative estimate for hiring more RCMP, for example, start at about $85,000 per officer, including things like equipment and vehicle.

More police is one answer to citizen’s concerns about community safety. There is, however, another simpler and more economical approach that should be tried first before budgeting for more police. Citizens themselves can do more to protect themselves and their neighbours from crime.

Citizens themselves can take simple and effective steps like locking houses, garages and especially vehicles all the time. Don’t leave valuables like money, credit cards, cell phones or computers in plain sight.

Don’t assume just because you’re on a farm no one knows you have valuables. ATVs, guns, money, fuel, trailers and even hay bales have value to a thief.

Same goes for a work site. Are you aware of how valuable copper is? Copper wire and piping have extremely high value on the scrap market, and buyers seem to ask no questions about where the materials come from.

Another target that many law-abiding citizens would believe is a catalytic converter on a  vehicle, especially a 4X4 truck with a lift kit that allows easy access to the vehicle’s underbody. The catalytic converter contains precious metals like platinum that a thief can sell for quick profit.

If away from home for an extended time, make your home look lived in. Don’t let newspapers and mail build up; leave some lights on while you’re gone and ask a neighbour to check in once in a while.

Getting to know your neighbours is a good idea too. Some neighbourhood associations are organizing social events so people can get together, barbeque some hot dogs and becomes friends. A close knit community looks after itself. How many people in your neighbourhood are you on a first name basis with? If a burglar was casing their property, would you know if he or she didn’t belong there? What if a burglar was casing yours? Get to know which adults belong in a community…and which ones don’t.

Police have been finding and shutting down drug houses in Alberta on a regular basis. The public can play a role in identifying these houses. Do you see lots of traffic stopping at the house briefly? Is the property unkept? Some obvious signs, like windows painted black, can even be evident.

A good example of what citizen involvement can accomplish is a Hells Angels drug house that was recently busted in an Edmonton suburb. The house wasn’t located in a slum, but rather in a good neighbourhood near a hospital and shopping centre. Concerned citizens contacted police, and it turned out the outlaw bike gang owned the house.

So, before contacting your council and asking them to spend more tax dollars during this time of economic uncertainty, first look at what you and your neighbours can do to prevent crime and make local communities safer places to live.

 

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