Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins talks with media about several meetings and town halls he’s had over the past few weeks in his riding regarding rural crime. (Photo by MURRAY CRAWFORD/Advocate staff)

Rural crime task force casting wide net in Central Alberta

People are mad.

That’s the theme Blaine Calkins has heard as he joined with other Conservative MPs from Alberta on a Rural Crime Task Force.

Calkins has spent the winter legislature break speaking with police officers, elected community officials, constituents and community watch groups about rural crime.

“A lot of it is property crime,” said Calkins. “It’s really alarming and folks are rightly concerned.

“Folks are irate. They’re law-abiding citizens. Some of them live 30, 40 or 50 minutes away from a police station. Criminals have figured this out and that’s why they’re out in these rural areas.”

On Monday and Tuesday night, Calkins held town hall meetings in Alix and Gull Lake respectively. A third meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at Liberty Hall, located north of Rimbey on Hwy 611.

From what he’s heard so far, Calkins said one of the most obvious takeaways was the need to get “tougher on crime.”

“Making sure there are sentences that provide not only a deterrence, but consequences for folks getting involved in crime,” said Calkins.

“Right now the law seems to be quite lopsided to the criminals’ favour. If you try to defend yourself or your property, you can find yourself — with how the laws are currently structured — you can find yourself in more trouble doing that than the criminal who came to deprive you of your property.”

In 2012, when the Conservatives were in power, they passed the Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act. It outlined criteria for legal self-defence while defending property.

Crime prevention has also been discussed, with solutions ranging from locking cars and not leaving keys or valuables in them to not leaving personal identification laying around.

“There are some simple things we can do on the prevention side that folks usually don’t pay much attention to until the crime happens to them,” said Calkins.

“My job is to make sure, at the federal level anyway, the laws are adequately reflecting the wishes of the folks here.”

He touted about 90 pieces of justice legislation the Conservative government passed into law when they were in power from 2006 to 2015. Those measures, he said, took aim at serious and violent crime and included mandatory minimum sentences.

“What I’m hearing from the RCMP and from constituents is people are having their vehicles stolen because the vehicle is then used to commit a further crime,” said Calkins. “And there are people out there with shopping lists, stealing property for profit.

“Whatever their motivation is, it doesn’t change the fact people have been deprived of their own property and that somebody shouldn’t pay a price or have a consequence for that action.”

The task force wants to present a report to Parliament drawing on what they learned and what solutions were presented.

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