(Advocate file photo).

Red Deer’s police priorities set for next two years

Public names drug and property crimes as main targets

An annual policing plan focusing on reducing drugs, property crime and downtown issues was adopted for Red Deer Monday.

The priorities were outlined by respondents of a phone and web survey of more than 900 city residents.

For the first time, Coun. Ken Johnston said there was a “massive community dialogue” undertaken.

He hopes these latest policing priorities, and the resulting actions, will change Red Deer’s ranking in the Maclean’s magazine national crime survey in which the city has not fared well. This survey has influencing community perceptions of Red Deer being unsafe.

The city’s Director of Protective Services Paul Goranson said Maclean’s bases its rankings on Statistics Canada crime stats, which consider results per 100,000 population. This tends to skew results for smaller communities, but “if we reduce crime, our stats will go down and our status in Maclean’s will improve,” he added.

Police objectives in the report include continuing to target known criminals, educating the public about proactive approaches to crime reduction and other ways citizens can participate, increase the police presence in the downtown, and to facilitate better relations between downtown social agencies and businesses – as well as clients of both.

Coun. Tanya Handley questioned how the latter was possible for police. City manager Craig Curtis suggested it might start by the RCMP building closer relations with both agencies and businesses.

Councillors were generally pleased with the report. Coun. Dianne Wyntjes said homelessness and mental health are outside the police’s jurisdiction, yet contribute towards the public perception of threat. However, she was happy to see the public education component, noting locking sheds and placing bike registrations on a registry all help reduce crime.

Coun. Buck Buchanan was the only one who didn’t support the plan. He felt specific initiatives, such as Project Pinpoint and police downtown foot patrols should have been named in it. He also objected to the very modest targets set for reducing crime — by three per cent annually through 2020.

Several councillors noted Project Pinpoint, in which known criminals are observed and targeted, has already helped reduced crime by a much larger margin. Coun. Michael Dawe noted just in this last quarter police reported local property crimes have dropped to 2,109 from 4,330, car thefts to 178 from 389 and break-ins to 238 from 358.

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