Smaller communities have long relied on volunteer firefighters, and maybe it’s time a similar approach is taken to crime fighting, says Caroline Mayor John Rimmer.
Earlier this year, the province announced it was looking at a new way of paying for police, which could require small municipalities under 5,000 people to pay from 15 to 70 per cent of the costs. Previously, they’ve been exempt.
Caroline has no idea what its bill might be, but Rimmer believes the money would be better spent on local volunteer-led groups such as Citizens on Patrol and Rural Crime Watch, than on topping up RCMP budgets.
“They have certain costs and it isn’t very much different than a volunteer fire service,” said Rimmer of the citizen-run watchdogs.
In Caroline, a local man is organizing a Citizens on Patrol branch and anticipates fuel costs for patrolling the area at around $4,000.
“My way of thinking is that would solve a lot of issues,” he said.
“Something like a volunteer … that communicates directly with the RCMP, or other law enforcement, makes a lot more sense. It’s community driven and community manned by local volunteers.”
Whatever the village’s share of policing costs, it is unlikely to mean a lot more RCMP patrols in the area, he said.
Rimmer is not knocking the RCMP, but Caroline falls under the Rocky Mountain House detachment, whose officers must patrol a massive area.
“But the response time is ridiculous.”
Rimmer pitched his funding idea earlier this month to Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer when he made a stop in Rocky Mountain House as part of his provincial tour to hear about crime and community safety.
“I never did get a direct answer on that particular question.”
Meanwhile, rural and small municipalities should know by the end of the year whether they will be expected to pick up a share of policing costs and what their share will be, says Alberta Justice.
“Any potential changes to the police funding model would be communicated to municipalities by Jan. 1, 2020, with a potential implementation date of April 1, 2020,” says department spokesman Dan Laville.
Many communities said they were not opposed to helping pay for police, while raising a number of concerns with the direction the province seemed to be going.
The financial impact was a big unknown, given the wide range of share costs on the table. Municipalities are also opposed to policing funding being linked to the amount of municipal taxes collected, rather than other factors, such as population or detachment distances.
“The government’s goal is more police services. We are committed to ensuring that any and all additional revenue gathered from a new funding model would be reinvested directly into front-line policing, leading to an overall increase in the number of law enforcement in their communities,” said Laville.