If Red Deer gets four new RCMP officers to help crack down on property crime, it will be one item checked off Supt. Ken Foster’s wish list.
Foster, the officer in charge of Red Deer’s RCMP detachment, wants to have a more dedicated police presence in the downtown, but said this is contingent on getting more resources.
The four additional police officers and two civilian assistant positions that he’s recommended in the proposed municipal budget would cost taxpayers about $778,000 over two years.
Red Deer council will discuss the request as part of the proposed 2018 operating budget that’s expected to total $361 million and raise taxes by two per cent.
Other “community safety” spending considerations are $156,000 for the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre, and $400,000 for cleaning up used needles and other “rough sleeper debris” from homeless encampments in parks and elsewhere.
Foster doesn’t believe criminals, who are committing break-ins to fund their drug addiction, will be stopped in their tracks by having more officers patrolling the downtown. But he feels a greater police presence could possibly deter some criminal activity.
Right now, Red Deer has no specific unit dedicated for the downtown. All police units in the city are tasked with taking turns on downtown patrols. Two police foot patrols are done within a 24-hour period. Foster said business owners might not notice because some of these are done at night.
Requests for more police officers and staff are made to city council every year at budget time for the local detachment to keep up with growing crime in an expanding community. These requests are usually granted.
While a shortfall was reported between the 161 RCMP officers the city currently has and the 196 officers that are the average for cities of 100,000, Foster doesn’t believe Red Deer needs 35 additional officers.
As part of a nation-wide police force, the Red Deer RCMP detachment can take advantage of economies of scale, he explained. RCMP specialists, in homicide, bomb disposal, traffic and other areas, can be borrowed from larger detachments so the city doesn’t have to hire its own.
At this time of economic restraint, Foster’s strategy has been making better use of the officers he has.
While many community members suppose RCMP members spend their day wrapped up in paperwork, Foster said he’s taken a lot of the administrative tasks off his officers’ hands. Much of it is now done by municipal workers.
Police officers still have to spend between 20 and 40 per cent of their time (depending on the case) getting ready for trial. But when criminal cases can be thrown out of court because of shoddy record keeping, Foster believes this paperwork is necessary.
Another goal for the local detachment is getting more local business/home owners to share information with the RCMP about where their surveillance cameras are located.
While police officers can’t view footage without the owners’ permission, they can make this request if there’s a chance a crime suspect was caught on one of the private cameras, said Foster.