Lacombe property crime down sharply in 2018: police chief

Targetting repeat offenders and working more closely with other police paying off

Lacombe police slashed property crimes and break and enters by nearly half last year.

The number of thefts were also dramatically reduced — with thefts over $5,000 dropping by 55 per cent and thefts under $5,000 down 42 per cent.

Impaired driving charges were down 15 per cent.

Not all of the numbers presented by Lacombe Police Service Chief Lorne Blumhagen trended the right way. Crimes against persons — assaults, robberies, criminal harassment and similar offences — were up 16 per cent.

Traffic collisions were up nine per cent and traffic moving violations were up 22 per cent.

Blumhagen said in an interview on Tuesday that much of the police force’s success can be attributed to efforts to target known trouble makers and by working effectively with other police.

Lacombe Police Service set up a two-officer crime reduction unit last fall. Its officers keep close tabs on known trouble makers out on bail among other strategies.

A Lacombe police officer also spent four months with the rural crime reduction team the RCMP set up.

“Evolving out of that, our members work very closely with the Blackfalds GIS (general investigative services) team, as well as Sylvan Lake, Innisfail and Ponoka.

“In the surrounding areas, we’ve really increased our communication between investigative teams and sharing our information and our resources. They do work together on a regular basis.”

Blumhagen said police forces have previously always had the intention of working together “but I think we’re getting better at doing it.”

Lacombe police have also re-focused their patrols to keep an eye on areas prone to attracting criminals, such as business parks, especially in the middle of the night. If there is a spate of crimes in an area, patrols will direct more attention there.

“It’s a little bit more analysis of what’s going on where and then ensuring our members are aware of those activities and where they are occurring.”

Blumhagen delivered the year-end crime statistics to council, which was sitting as a committee, on Monday.

Stepping up checkstops, with funding help from the province, also seems to paying off, he told council.

Drug charges are up five per cent, a statistic that indicates efforts to target drug dealers is working, he said.

“That’s actually a bit of a positive indicator for us.”

Crimes against persons are often fueled by alcohol and drugs, he said.

“They are in-the-moment type crimes and hard to predict when they are going to happen.”

Public education and other initiatives will be used to combat crimes against persons. Similar efforts to reduce domestic violence have proven successful.

Police have been pulling together traffic statistics since 2016 and after five years hopes to have a good baseline of averages to spot trends.

A couple of high-collision areas — Highway 2A at Woodland Drive and at 50th Street — have already been identified and police are stepping up enforcement and working with city planners on what can be done to improve safety at those intersections.

Blumhagen acknowledged the force has been criticized by council for an unexpected $240,000 cost overrun in its budget, which is about $3.4 million, that came to light earlier this year. However, policing costs-per-capita remain better than comparable communities, he said.

“We do strive to be effective and efficient in our service delivery.”

Lacombe Police Service has 21 officers and 15 support staff.

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