Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood (contributed photo). Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood (contributed photo).

Red Deer County protesters aim to ‘start conversation’ about rural crime solutions

Rural residents took two buses to Edmonton this week

More than 100 Red Deer County residents took their disgust with rising rural crime to Edmonton’s legislature to share it with the provincial government.

Some of the farmers and acreage owners who travelled on two buses to watch the government get grilled about the high property crime on Monday, didn’t think they made enough of an impression.

But Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood feels optimistic that a strong message was sent.

The proof, Wood said, is that Alberta’s acting justice minister Marlin Schmidt has committed to attending a public meeting in Red Deer County next month. “I felt he was listening and was quite empathetic.”

The protest was organized by a relative of Sylvan Lake-Innisfail MLA Don MacIntyre, the United Conservative Party’s justice critic, who wanted to bring rural concerns from his riding directly to the NDP government.

Many of the rural bus protesters don’t see this as a party issue, however, but as a societal concern that all Albertans have to work together to solve.

Farmer Margo Staniforth said she had her eyes opened about rural crime after her neighbour had equipment stolen from his shed, the door to his house kicked in, and electronics and jewelry stolen. The thieves also took keys to vehicles they later tried to steal.

One of Staniforth’s friends, who lives on Burnt Lake Trail, had generators and other equipment taken. This friend learned from police there were four other break-ins that same day, as well as six vehicle thefts within a three-mile radius, said Staniforth, who doesn’t think urban people realize how rampant rural crime has become.

“Everybody seems to know somebody, if they haven’t been affected by this themselves.”

Area residents are being told the bad economy and high drug addiction rate are the problem— but what is the answer? Neither Wood nor Staniforth believe easy solutions will be found to a multi-pronged problem.

Perhaps more police officers are needed, or the RCMP could use greater administrative assistance to free up more officers to respond to crimes, Staniforth suggested.

Maybe society needs to come to grips with the local drug problem and start addressing it, said Wood, who’s heard every rural municipality located close to an urban centre struggles with high crime.

Most of Red Deer County council attended Monday’s protest because “we need to start a conversation,” said Wood. He hopes it starts when Schmidt comes to listen to Red Deer County residents next month.

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