Costly damage and thefts continue to torment Red Deer-area business parks.
For over a year and a half, businesses in Queens, Burnt Lake and Belich business parks have seen their property and equipment targeted by criminals.
Suzy Dietrich, office manager at Nor-Ag Ltd. in Burnt Lake, said crime is still a big, frustrating problem and insurance rates have skyrocketed because of claims.
“I think everyone is just exhausted, so it’s really hard to get people to call the cops anymore,” Dietrich said.
“I’ve had guys right in the building in the back working on stuff and there are people out front breaking into trucks,” she said about the crime that happens mostly at night.
She said criminals are definitely organized. They have an unlimited number of people willing to break in and steal because the justice system allows them to quickly get back out on the street.
She wants more police officers visible in business parks, where it’s getting harder for businesses to stay afloat.
“When people say it’s different when someone breaks into your home, I get that. I’ve had people break into my home. But my business is also my home. I spend more time here than in my home, and we’re trying to keep people in jobs and all of these costs hurt us. We’ve got to take from somewhere if they’re taking from us,” Dietrich said.
Jeff Giesbrecht, operations manager with TRI-West Security, which is working to protect businesses in the area, said the rate of crime has dropped slightly in the past six months.
“It’s not nearly as bad as what it was, but it’s still pretty bad. We’re still seeing break and enters. We’re still having vehicles stolen. But what’s really helped is we’ve increased the amount of security in the area, the amount of security guards, and the quicker response from the RCMP as well,” Giesbrecht said.
He said security guards are regularly in contact with Red Deer and Blackfalds RCMP. On Nov. 18, a guard was able to assist an officer who stopped a suspicious vehicle.
Right now, battery theft is bad in the area. Thieves are also after certain makes and models of vehicles, diesel fuel, gasoline and copper wiring, Giesbrecht said.
Red Deer RCMP Insp. Gerald Grobmeier said police have worked to improve communication with security staff, who are another set of eyes and ears, but police do not have a single strategy to reduce crime in a particular area.
Rather, police identify individuals doing the most crime and focus on them when not responding to other calls, as well as looking at crime hotspots.
It’s a more efficient use of resources that resulted in a 13 per cent drop in break and enters this year for the entire city, a 37 per cent drop in motor vehicle theft, a 30 per cent drop in overall property crime, and a 25 per cent drop in total Criminal Code cases, he said.
“When you’re talking about a 30 per cent drop in property crime, that is huge, and generally doesn’t happen. Anywhere between a two and four per cent drop in any type of crime is significant,” Grobmeier said.
Meanwhile, the number of calls to RCMP has increased 3.5 per cent, he said.
“It’s not that people have stopped calling, or we’re getting way less calls. We’re actually getting way more calls than we’ve ever had and our property crime is still dropping,” Grobmeier said.
Staff Sgt. Dan Martin, detachment commander with Blackfalds RCMP, said crimes against people have to take priority, but people must still report property crime.
“People do get fed up and say we call the cops and nothing happens. Keep reporting it. We do open files. Overall, we need to know what’s going on and it helps us direct our resources in different areas,” Martin said.
Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen, who was co-chair of an Alberta Rural Crime Task Force, said the task force’s report, that included concerns about the justice system, was presented to government.
“It’s difficult to assume they’ll jump right on it, but we’ll continue to push as best we can. The Liberal crime bill is actually moving in the opposite direction and is making sentences more lenient for property and other types of crime,” Dreeshen said.