Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff Red Deer RCMP Supt. Ken Foster

Police can curb property crime, not resolve the problem, says Red Deer RCMP boss

Supt. Ken Foster says an array of social problems need addressing

Many Red Deerians fed up with break-ins believe a greater police effort would resolve Red Deer’s rising property crime problem.

Red Deer RCMP Supt. Ken Foster respectfully disagrees.

While he thinks police are making a definite difference by keeping criminals in check, the RCMP only has the power to deal with the enforcement end of a complex social problem with multiple root causes.

Foster believes rising addictions, homelessness, unemployment and mental illness, all need to be brought under control before local property crime comes down.

What Red Deer RCMP officers can do – and are doing – Foster maintains, is curbing the rate at which property crime is growing.

While non-violent crime has been rising across the province, in large part because of the opioid crisis and difficult economy, Foster said it isn’t increasing as quickly now in Red Deer, as between 2015 and 2016, when 2,000 more incidents were reported.

This year’s property crime increase is only half as high as last year’s, he noted. And Foster believes a big reason for the success is Project Pinpoint, which helps connect local criminals to crimes being committed in the community.

“It’s always the same people,” he explained, so it’s usually a matter of connecting the right culprits to the crimes.

There are two sides to Project Pinpoint – the intelligence gathering side and the analytical side.

Foster said three local RCMP analysts use computer data to draw on all information known about a crime, as well the current status of local criminals. If a series of break-ins suddenly start, the analysts look at factors, such as which known criminals have just been released from jail, to get an idea of which persons could be possible suspects.

“We still have to gather evidence,” he added, but it helps narrow the search when all the “analytics” are pointing in the same direction.

Foster, who’s already starting to prepare a policing strategy for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, doesn’t think Red Deer warrants Maclean’s magazine’s description of being the fifth most dangerous city in Canada.

All of the ‘dangerous’ crimes – such as murders, assaults and robberies have gone down slightly in recent years, he said, noting police are always looking for new ways to crack cases.

Regarding property crime, “we do a lot of covert stuff,” said Foster. But one of the successful tactics he doesn’t mind revealing is the “bait vehicles” police leave where previous vehicles have been stolen – such as industrial yards. These are trace-able with GPS.

He maintains local RCMP officers do care about property crime, because “they raise families here and are victims too …” But these crimes are only the symptom of much larger societal problems.

Regarding the supervised drug consumption site Red Deer could get in 2018, Foster said it could help if it comes with “wrap-around” services, including assistance with housing, mental health problems, and drugs cessation. “I believe that’s the intent.”

On the positive side, Red Deer has good co-operation between social service agencies, said Foster, who noted police reps sit on the various committees to keep up on what’s happening in the city.

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