Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood says the county does not poach businesses away from the city. Advocate file photo

Red Deer County mayor ‘appalled’ by justice system’s handling of crime

Mayor Jim Wood shares rural sentiments that sentences too lenient for rural criminals

When a Crown prosecutor told a packed Innisfail Legion room recently how the justice system works, Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood was listening.

He did not leave a happy man from the emotional gathering that drew 250 people.

“I was appalled at this revolving door,” said Wood on Tuesday. “I didn’t realize that someone with no criminal record is typically given a suspended sentence for stealing a vehicle.”

Even those who are caught stealing vehicles on numerous occasions, measure their time behind bars in days and, at most, months, he learned to his dismay.

Judges who dish out more severe punishments risk seeing the sentences reduced on appeal.

Wood said the Jan. 28 gathering organized by area crime watch associations, and featuring Red Deer’s chief Crown prosecutor, Dominique Mathurin, was an eye-opener.

Justice system critics have long bemoaned what they regard as a revolving-door approach that puts arrested criminals back on the streets within hours, in some cases.

What came as a surprise to him, and many others present, was that criminals lurking around rural properties are not out of custody because they are awaiting trial and sentencing, but that they are out after already serving their short sentences.

Wood said the information about the sentences allowed by law did not go over well with many in the audience.

“They didn’t like the answer of where these sentences are,” he said. “What it sounds like is that our whole system is broken.”

The police are doing their job. The arrests are made and the repeat offenders are known to police, who are as unhappy as any with the situation, he said.

“The solution is far beyond hiring more police officers.”

Wood said the county is trying to set up a meeting with Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer to urge the province to lobby for justice system changes.

Red Deer County Coun. Jean Bota was at the same meeting in Innisfail, and shares the prevailing sentiment of rural landowners that more needs to be done to stop the epidemic of rural crime and rampant vehicle thefts.

Bota would like to see the courts hear more from crime victims, through victim impact statements. Those victimized by thieves are often deeply affected.

“This trauma goes beyond stealing,” said Bota, who is president of the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association.

“I think those people (in the court system) need to start hearing this stuff.”

Schweitzer wants community groups to be able to submit victim impact statements at sentencing hearings to outline how communities suffer from crime, a move that Bota supports.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

rural crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Conservatives call for Trudeau to testify at committee on WE Charity deal

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is already investigating whether Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act

Beat the heat this summer with pop-up spray parks

Starting next week, spray parks will be popping up in neighbourhoods across… Continue reading

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Quebec police continue search for father, one day after missing girls found dead

Bodies were found in a wooded area of Quebec City suburb

11 rafters rescued from Red Deer River

Red Deer RCMP rescued a party of 11 river rafters Saturday afternoon… Continue reading

QUIZ: Are you ready for a summer road trip?

How much do you really know about roads, motor vehicles and car culture? Take this quiz to find out.

Canmore RCMP respond to multiple hiking injury calls this weekend

EMS and RCMP responded to three separate and unrelated hiking accidents in Kananaskis Country.

You can’t put a price on memories

Some people would rather buy something than sell something. Some people are… Continue reading

Masks and gloves: Elections Saskatchewan preparing for pandemic election

REGINA — Elections Saskatchewan estimates it will need 400,000 face masks and… Continue reading

Quebec police say they found 2 bodies in St-Apollinaire during search for 2 girls

SAINT-APOLLINAIRE, Que. — Quebec provincial police continue to search for the father… Continue reading

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA chief Don Fehr reflect on RTP, CBA deals

Gary Bettman and Don Fehr finally have a chance to catch their… Continue reading

NHL’s road to Edmonton and Toronto featured plenty of obstacles

Since early March, the novel coronavirus has affected almost every decision facing… Continue reading

Florida sets record week for coronavirus deaths

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s coronavirus death rate rose again Saturday, setting… Continue reading

Trump’s defiant help for Stone adds to tumult in Washington

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s intervention into a criminal case connected to… Continue reading

Most Read