Last fall, Medicine River Rural Crime Watch was preparing to call it quits.
Volunteers were proving harder to find so the remaining members decided to put out one final call for help and set a Nov. 27 deadline to find more community members willing to commit.
“We had the meeting on Nov. 27 and volunteers stepped forward,” said Dana Kreil, vice-chair of the Crime Watch chapter and a Lacombe County councillor.
The once-struggling group now has a new secretary, treasurer and president. Town of Eckville and Central Alberta Co-op also have representatives on the Crime Watch board.
“We have been rejuvenated, absolutely,” said Kreil. “We’ve got a good, young board. I think we’ve got some sustainability there.”
The group is also working on creating a Facebook page to build its social media presence.
Kreil believes Crime Watch can play an important role in providing a community response to rural crime, which has been a hot topic in the province for many years and an ongoing source of frustration for many residents.
Besides its work alerting rural residents to area crime incidents and providing advice on how best to protect properties, Medicine River Rural Crime Watch is reaching out to area businesses to get them involved.
Formerly called Benalto Crime Watch, Medicine River Crime Watch covers a large area west of Sylvan Lake and south of Rimbey.
One of the difficulties Crime Watch groups have faced is getting timely enough information on local crimes so sharp-eyed residents can make a difference. People posting on social media has largely filled that gap now and Kreil sees a different role emerging for Crime Watch groups.
“I think we are morphing and understanding that what we provide is access to the police,” she said. “If you come to our meetings, you will get to ask the police your questions. We have good access and they communicate with us.”
One of the biggest advantages of being a Crime Watch member is receiving weekly reports from Rimbey and Sylvan Lake RCMP detachments on incidents that have been reported to them in the area over the previous week.
“That weekly report, I read every one of them. They can only give out so many details, but I can see them and go ‘Ok, we’ve got some hot spots going on.’
“I find that actually to be better than the fan-outs … because you can see where things are kind of churning.”
Rural Crime Watch areas also get signs advertising their presence. Medicine River’s group added a second sign under the standard yellow Crime Watch sign notifying that says “Suspicious Activity Reported.”
Kreil said the second sign sends two messages: “Number one, for people in the local area, report stuff.
“The second message it sends is to the criminals: we’re reporting and we’re watching.”