‘Sky is not falling’

Red Deer is a safe community, but does have challenges in combating crime, the head of Red Deer City RCMP said during a town hall meeting Thursday.

Red Deer is a safe community, but does have challenges in combating crime, the head of Red Deer City RCMP said during a town hall meeting Thursday.

Supt. Brian Simpson reassured about 45 people attending the public meeting that the “sky is not falling” in regards to crime. He referred to the national news magazine, Maclean’s, report that recently pegged Red Deer as the 11th most dangerous out of 100 communities across Canada.

“To have that title is sensationalistic,” said Simpson. “Do we have a problem? Absolutely we do.”

But he added it’s important to take the magazine’s figures into perspective. They were tabulated using Statistics Canada data.

He pointed out that the city of more than 90,000 people had two homicides in 2009, but on a per capita basis that put Red Deer on a higher scale.

“The numbers paint a horrific picture,” said Simpson. “They shouldn’t be totally discarded, but I think we have to take a look at the whole picture.”

Simpson said he was alarmed with five to six stabbings that had occurred over a brief period of time in recent weeks. He wondered what was happening, but would later learn that they were not random acts. The stabbings involved people who knew each other.

The Maclean’s report also cited Red Deer as being 31st for break-ins in 2009. Simpson said the city does have a lot of property crime, but often it can involve four to six criminals who go on crime sprees.

“The sky is not falling but we do have challenges,” Simpson said.

One resident asked Simpson if he was comfortable with another statistic identified within the community Vital Signs report unveiled this month. It shows Red Deer having 1.23 officers per 1,000 residents in 2009, 38.5 per cent lower than the national average of 2.00. The city has 128 officers.

“I would like more police officers,” said Simpson. “We have a northside station and a new office in the downtown. I recognize that roads need to be built. . . it’s a balance every day.”

Fortunately, due to a slower economy, more people are entering the field, Simpson said. Three years ago, there was a shortage, he added.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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