A Central Alberta rancher is defending an Okotoks man who was charged after shots were fired during a confrontation on his property.
Mabel Hamilton, who has lived east of Bowden for 40 years, said it’s not fair for people to judge the man so quickly.
“There’s always two sides to the story,” said Hamilton. “Why do you automatically become a criminal when you’re protecting your own property?”
There are three homes at Hamilton’s Belvin Ranch property. One of those homes has been invaded twice, two vehicles have been stolen on their land and two other robberies were thwarted by dogs.
Hamilton said people from the city have told her they didn’t realize how much crime there is in rural communities.
“By the time (police) would get here, it’s kind of a done deal,” she said. “That’s something some city people may not understand.”
While there hasn’t been any recent crime on Hamilton’s land, her neighbours have dealt with problems, she said.
“What is the answer to stop this? That’s we’re trying to figure out,” said Hamilton.
RCMP have charged an Okotoks homeowner with aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm.
Police were called to his property around Saturday, when he allegedly confronted two people rummaging through his vehicles.
Police say shots were fired; one of the suspects was later found with an arm injury and was taken to hospital.
The suspect who was taken to hospital, is charged with trespassing at night, mischief to property, theft under $5,000, possession of methamphetamine and two counts of violating probation.
Police are still looking for the second suspect.
Blaine Calkins, Red Deer-Lacombe MP, said the growing crime rate in Alberta is a disturbing trend.
“People are scared and they don’t know what to do,” Calkins said. “Folks in rural areas aren’t used to this. Some are quite isolated and far away from police detachments.”
Calkins is one of many Conservative MPs from Alberta on a rural crime task force, which held three town meetings in Alix, Lacombe and Ponoka in January.
Residents weren’t blaming police at the meetings because they understand how tough rural policing is, Calkins said. But they were frustrated for being continually targeted, he added.
“These criminals are getting very bold and they aren’t just coming into the yards, they’re coming into people’s homes and taking keys,” said Calkins.
“The laws are set up in a way that gives the criminals the upper hand.
“If the homeowners did something to protect themselves or their property, they’ll end up in more trouble because a crime against a person is more severe than a property crime,” he said.
The task force will take the information gathered from those meetings, as well as meetings with police and victims, and will make recommendations to introduce measures to strengthen criminal justice system, said Calkins.
“It’s going to take a holistic approach. We’ll need everyone working hand-in-hand … from all three orders of government and the police to make sure our justice system is as effective as possible,” he said.