Mountie crime reduction units are at the centre of a $10 million investment in fighting rural crime and Red Deer RCMP say they have started reversing some of the increase in property crime.
But a local crime watch member says the rural crime problem goes far beyond more enforcement.
Announced late last week by the Alberta government, the $10 million, seven-point plan includes funding for 39 new police officers in the province, 40 civilian staff and $2 million more to hire more Crown prosecutors.
One of the points to the plan was the expansion of crime reduction units, which target prolific offenders. Red Deer RCMP have two such types of units or task forces. Insp. Gerald Grobmeier said the priority crimes task force focuses on arresting people in the city while the rural crime reduction unit works with neighbouring detachments.
“We’ve really started to see the fruits to our labour in the last five months,” said Grobmeier about the priority crime task force. “We’ve started to see some downward trends in property crimes. It’s been very effective.”
The money will also goes towards a policing support centre, with civilian staff handling paperwork; improving coordination with other agencies such as the Alberta sheriffs, Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and conservation officers; and six intelligence-focused police officers.
Grobmeier said the task force has also led to the detachment working closer with parole officers and Crown prosecutors.
“There have been other benefits other than crime reductions,” said Grobmeier. “It’s still too early to declare victory.
Jean Bota, Red Deer County Coun. and Alberta Rural Crime Watch director, said she was glad for the funding, but wants to see work put in to the issues surrounding crime.
“It’s only part of the solution and I think we have more homework to do,” said Bota. “Let’s look into the layers.
“We can’t police our way out of this situation.”
She said there are many factors ranging from the opioid crisis to caseloads in the Crown Prosecutors officer to the amount of paperwork done by police officers to social issues that can also impact the crime rate.
Statistics provided by the Alberta government, through Statistics Canada, show three consecutive years of an increase in crime in Central Alberta. Data from Red Deer, Red Deer County, Sylvan Lake, Lacombe, Clearwater County, Lacombe County, Blackfalds, Innisfail, Rocky Mountain House, Penhold and Rimbey shows a 51 per cent increase in crime from 2013 to 2016.
In 2013, there was a combined 19,647 offences reported in the area. By 2016, that number had increased to 29,726. Taking Red Deer out of the equation, crime has increased from 4,159 incidents in 2013 to 6,904 incidents in 2016, a 66 per cent increase.
“We have overlapping crime because criminals don’t follow boundaries or jurisdictions,” said Grobmeier. “We share a lot more intelligence than we have before and share resources to where they need to be.
“With the new announcement of crime reductions teams, it will only enhance that work. Now there’ll be some designated bodies focusing on crime reduction. Right now officers have to do it on top of what they’re doing.”