The number of police officers is falling in many communities, but not in Red Deer.
Figures released by Statistics Canada show a steady increase in the number of police officers in Red Deer over the past five years. The city has gone from having 143 officers in 2014 to 179 in 2018.
The executive director of the Red Deer Downtown Business Association says merchants welcome the police presence and the feeling of safety officers bring to the city’s core.
Amanda Gould noted the increasing number of police officers reaffirms Red Deer city council’s commitment to fight crime.
“With council’s dedication to increase policing downtown, it’s been incredibly positive.”
The steady climb in Red Deer police officers is in contrast with the national trend. As of May 15, 2018, there were 68,562 police officers in Canada, a decrease of 463 from 2017, the report released this month states.
This represents 185 police officers for every 100,000 citizens, a decline of two per cent from the previous year (189 officers per 100,000 in 2017).
The rate of police strength has been declining since 2011, and 2018 marks the lowest rate since 2001.
Gould noted the number of RCMP officers in Red Deer might even be higher than the report shows, which is based on numbers from 2018.
Red Deer city council approved the addition of a sixth dedicated RCMP officer, as well as two peace officers, to the downtown team in mid-year budget discussions in September. The downtown unit initially started with four officers in the latter part of last year.
“If we’re saying we need to be 185 (police officers) per 100,000 people, then we’re nearly there. We’re nearly, exactly there,” said Gould, adding that the trend shows the city is moving in the right direction.
The Statistics Canada report also shows a decline in the crime severity index in Red Deer, from 221.31 in 2017 to 169.76 in 2018. That same index figure was 210.66 in 2016, 182.60 in 2015 and 168.78 in 2014 in Red Deer.
Red Deer also experienced a rise in the number of female police officers in 2018, at 43 from 2017’s 39. The report shows female police officer numbers sat at 37 in 2016, 47 in 2015 and 40 in 2014.
The Stats Canada report shows rates of policing strength declined in nine provinces and territories in 2018, with the largest decreases in Saskatchewan (eight per cent), Prince Edward Island (four per cent) and Ontario (four per cent).
In contrast, Nova Scotia (one per cent), Yukon (one per cent), British Columbia (two per cent) and the Northwest Territories (two per cent) all reported increases.
The police services of Calgary and Toronto reported the largest declines in the rate of police strength at 11 and eight per cent, respectively.
Richmond, B.C. (10 per cent), Kelowna, B.C. (nine per cent), Longueuil, Que. (seven per cent), and Codiac Regional, N.B. (six per cent) posted the largest gains.
This year, the central Alberta communities of Sylvan Lake (from 16 police officers in 2017 to 19 in 2018) and Rocky Mountain House (from 14 police officers in 2017 to 16 in 2018) have posted gains.
The number of police officers in Edmonton grew to 1,882 in 2018 from 1,775 in 2017, according to the report. The number of officers in Calgary declined from 2,215 in 2017 to 2,006 in 2018.
Red Deer was one of the municipalities to post the highest gains, said Statistics Canada in the report released last year (with 2017 numbers).