The City of Red Deer is striking back at “bicycle bandits” and other brazen criminals by increasing the size of its downtown police force.
Red Deer city council approved adding a sixth dedicated RCMP officer, as well as two peace officers, to the downtown team in mid-year budget discussions Wednesday.
“Neighbourhoods are being invaded,” said Coun. Ken Johnston, who feels “miscreants, thugs or punks” have been brazenly carting around proceeds of “thievery” in bicycle carriers in broad daylight.
Johnston spoke of seeing “these bike caravans” during his morning walks.
“It’s time we draw the proverbial line in the sand” and stopped their smug sense of immunity from justice, he added.
Council unanimously decided, in Coun. Tanya Handley’s absence, that the best way to spend additional police funds pre-approved for 2020 is by beefing up the downtown team.
There’s a growing need to crack down on the “bicycle bandits that are all over the city, taking advantage of our neighbourhoods,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee.
Coun. Vesna Higham expressed the general sentiment that city residents are fed up with the thieves’ “brazen attitude of ‘you can’t touch me.’”
“We are very aware that the patience and good will of this community is wearing thin,” she added.
While the councillors acknowledged that policing is only one piece of the puzzle, along with justice and social programs, Mayor Tara Veer noted it’s the piece most under the city’s control.
“This will not solve everything, but it’s another step forward,” Veer added of the additional new downtown policing positions.
Protective services director Paul Goranson said the approved new hires will boost the number of police officers in the downtown to six, and also add two dedicated peace officers to handle bylaw-related crimes.
“The downtown team would be expanded to a team of eight uniformed officers,” with a focus on helping reinforce a sense of safety, he added.
Goranson noted these two will be the first peace officers solely dedicated to working in the downtown.
Coun. Frank Wong expressed hope the eastern part of the downtown will also be visited by the policing team, not just the streets around the old train station.