The Alberta government’s crime crackdown appears to be paying off.
Since the launch of a $10-million anti-crime action plan in April 2018, along with an RCMP crime reduction strategy, rural detachments have experienced a 9.8 per cent drop in property crime from 2017.
Municipal detachments recorded a 6.1 per cent property crime drop, says the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General 2018-19 annual report.
Ken Wigmore, Red Deer/Lacombe Rural Community Crime Watch president, believes the situation has improved over the past few months.
“I’m on a few different crime watch emails, and Facebook pages and things like that, and I certainly don’t get as many (complaints about crime) as I did six months or a year ago,” said Wigmore, who is also a Lacombe County councillor.
The province’s seven-point action plan included $8 million for the RCMP to bolster their forces and $2 million for the Alberta Crown Prosecutor Service to hire more prosecutors for rural Alberta.
RCMP used its funding to hire 39 more police officers and 40 civilian employees.
The report says that between 2017 and 2018, there were 480 fewer homes broken into, 3,500 fewer thefts and more than 1,200 fewer vehicles stolen.
Wigmore said while the crime picture appears to be brightening, long-running issues remain.
“I think some of the initiatives taken have probably helped,” he said.
“I don’t think the catch and release has done anything for us,” he said, referring to the common justice system practise of releasing from prison those charged with crimes while their cases wind through the courts.
“My personal feeling is you can probably tell when certain guys in certain territories get out of jail, because everything is quiet, and as soon as they get out of jail, they’re back at it again.”
Wigmore believes RCMP have been doing a better job of keeping tabs on repeat offenders to discourage them from going back to their old ways.
While rural crime statistics appear to be heading in the right direction, Wigmore still hears of rural residents getting vehicles stolen and of other crimes.
There are many he doesn’t hear about, and RCMP often do not provide a lot of information about their investigations, although Rimbey detachment keeps the crime watch group updated as best they can, he said.
Lacombe and Red Deer counties voted in 2018 to pay for a pair of RCMP investigators to focus on rural crime and work with central Alberta detachments. That initiative seems to be helping, Wigmore said.
One of the measures police have adopted is the creation of data and call management centres. It allows officers to phone in and have civilian staff input data rather than requiring officers to come into the detachment to do it themselves.
Call management centres divert non-emergency calls to call-back units rather than to front-line officers.