The man behind a petition calling for more front-line police officers in Red Deer applauds council’s efforts to boost police presence in the city.
Calvin Goulet-Jones, said he was “absolutely blown away by the level of commitment” when the nine-person city council adopted a $288.5-million operating budget that includes hiring 12 RCMP police officers, of which four are supervisors, and six municipal staff to assist police, over the next nine months.
Goulet-Jones started a petition in December calling on the city to immediately hire 20 additional RCMP officers to work on the front line.
“I asked for 20 in the petition,” he said. “I was thinking maybe 10. We got the 12 in the next nine months, hopefully. I am very satisfied. It backed me up. It proved what I was trying to do was realistic.”
As of Wednesday morning, there were 115 signatures on the petition. Goulet-Jones said the number was disappointing but he believes there was some misunderstanding about what he was trying to achieve.
The new positions added $888,375 to the 2013 operating budget and another $1.25 million to the 2014 operating budget.
The 2013 property tax increase was projected at 3.91 per cent before the additional money was directed to policing. The final city tax increase is 4.28 per cent. The composite tax increase will be known when the province sets the education levy in the spring.
Goulet-Jones said the tax increase is money well spent and thinks most taxpayers would agree.
“I think when you look at the vulnerable people in our society who need those cops to show up right now and respond, they are going to be happy with this,” said Goulet-Jones. “They are going to feel more confident in the response and know they are not going to have to wait half an hour or an hour for the cops to respond … I think it will reduce crime. We need more enforcement in our city bottom line.”
TerryLee Ropchan, the executive director of the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre, said it’s great to have additional officers to help reduce the police officer’s caseloads. A Red Deer RCMP officer has on average 150 Criminal Code case files compared to the average Alberta police officer, who has 99 case files.
A Red Deer Mountie has 202 Criminal Code files per 1,000 residents while Mounties in other parts of the province have on average 139 files per 1,000 residents.
“It’s positive to have more front-line officers,” said Ropchan. “I think residents have put safety and crime prevention to the forefront of the community. The city has responded accordingly. I think that is positive.”
Ropchan said it is important not to lose sight that residents have a role to play in making the community safe. She said it’s important to engage and encourage residents to participate in crime prevention.
“I think that can be a simple thing as saying hi to your neighbours straight to volunteering for groups and programs,” said Ropchan.