Growing up in Penhold, Mayor Mike Yargeau did not need a house key.
“Our door was never locked. That’s the kind of mentality we need to change in smaller rural communities because you just can’t do that anymore.”
Taking a hard look at local crime and ways the community can come together to help prevent it will be the goal of a new Safe Community Task Force.
“I really want to see some more community involvement,” said Yargeau. “People just really helping out and pitching in, I think that goes a long way to reducing crime.”
Among the first jobs of the task force will be to develop what they are calling a safety diagnostic. It will pinpoint areas to focus on using public feedback, RCMP statistics and other input.
Based on the information gathered, a business plan will be developed and taken to council, likely in the fall.
Yargeau said he and other council members heard plenty about crime when they campaigned in last fall’s election.
“That was a big concern.”
Yargeau said it is a concern shared province-wide. He does not believe Penhold has any more crime than elsewhere but it has become an issue more people are talking about.
The committee will include council members, town staff and members of the public. The call has just gone out for community volunteers.
There are a number of initiatives the task force will look at. Yargeau would like to see a Crime Watch program adopted.
The task force will likely also look at whether paying for more police coverage is a worthwhile option. Penhold has two peace officers and is covered by Innisfail RCMP detachment.
Red Deer and Lacombe Counties are among municipalities that have recently opted to pay for enhanced policing to bolster enforcement.
The focus on safer communities is not just about break-and-enters and other common crimes.
“It’s kind of a really encompassing task force,” he said.
“One of the issues we have in town besides property crime is speeds. We have two secondary highways running through town with children crossing every day.
“We want to look at how can we raise awareness among our residents to make sure we’re looking after our kids there.”