Having survived thefts, an arson and six nearby drug houses, Laura Miller is not surprised by an RCMP report showing crime has spiked in Red Deer.
“I think crime is way up. It’s terrible,” she said. “They need to get a handle on this.”
In the past couple of years, Miller and her neighbours in Eastview’s Terrace Park complex have suffered break-ins, thefts, had their cars stolen or damaged and sustained other vandalism.
Miller had her truck set on fire two nights ago and her trailer beaten with a crow bar. Her outdoor security cameras were also stolen. A suspect was arrested for these latest crimes, which she feels were targeted attacks.
“There’s not much I can suggest (to police). Everything’s been tried,” said Miller, who feels the justice system needs to be harsher — especially on repeat offenders.
She gives the police credit for acting on complaints — including shutting down six drug houses in her neighbourhood over the past year. Miller had hoped the local crime problem was lessening.
“I think the police are doing their best, but there are too many drugs in the city” — and only so much that law enforcement can do, she added.
RCMP Supt. Gerald Grobmeier said much the same thing when he was asked by a city councillor this week how many additional officers it would take to fix Red Deer’s crime problem, which grew by 20 per cent in the first half of this year over the same period in 2018.
Red Deer’s RCMP commander replied that enforcement only goes so far when an addictions crisis in the city, combined with a bad economy, are creating an environment for burgeoning criminal activity.
The police detachment is trying a variety of approaches — from keeping a precautionary eye on repeat offenders in the community, to patrolling the downtown on foot and talking to businesses and social service agencies.
The City of Red Deer is also trying two new crime-reduction solutions that put some onus on city residents to be more proactive and protect themselves from criminal activity.
Crime mapping was started in the city earlier this month. A map on the city’s website shows what types of crimes have happened in which neighbourhoods. The markers for car thefts, other thefts, break-ins and mischief only stay on the map for two weeks.
Janise Somer, program co-ordinator of the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre, said the idea is to make people understand that there are no good or bad areas of the city, since crime isn’t limited to any specific neighbourhood.
“We want to educate people to lock their sheds, lock their cars, don’t leave valuables in the car overnight, lock their homes — and lock the door between the house and the garage…”
Staff Sgt. Jeff McBeth of the Red Deer RCMP has stated that most thefts are crimes of opportunity.
“The criminal is looking for unlocked vehicles or residences, where items can be taken quickly and easily.
When theft is no longer a simple opportunity, he added, “most criminals will then move on to easier targets.”
So far, Somer hasn’t heard much feedback on crime mapping, only comments about how glad some residents are that it’s finally being done here, since it’s been the standard in many Alberta communities.
Local residents do seem to be embracing Red Deer’s new voluntary bike registry.
Somer said 240 bikes have been registered since the program was started last month and the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre has been promoting it through “Hi Neighbour” pop-up sessions around the city.
Red Deer city council approved the system Monday after hearing it’s made a big dent in bicycle thefts in B.C. — reducing them by as much as by 55 per cent in Whistler and 30 per cent in Vancouver.
The app-based system allows bikes to be registered at the point of sale by stores clerks, or later by bike owners. Photos, descriptions, as well as bicycle serial numbers, are posted online, and can be easily referenced by police officers if the bike is stolen.
Registered bikes can sport a hard-to-remove sticker to warn thieves the bike’s information can be found online. The sticker acts as a warning that the bikes are recoverable, said Somer.
For more information, or to register, visit project529.com/reddeer.