Hardly a day goes by that Jean Bota doesn’t hear about yet another incident of rural crime in Central Alberta.
But a very frustrated rural community is starting to push back by becoming more aware of crime prevention, she said.
Bota, a board member for Red Deer/Lacombe Rural Community Crime Watch, said Wednesday that more and more other communities are reaching out to the organization seeking information about setting up their own group.
Over the past two years the crime watch group has held about 20 information meetings in other communities.
Criminals who think they can do whatever they want in rural areas may think they have free reign and can do what they want, but in fact, as one person told Bota recently, “We’re not fools.”
When Red Deer/Lacombe Rural Community Crime Watch hold the information meetings, they have a panel of experts, including RCMP, who clearly explain the rules, such as not taking the law into their own hands.
“It’s not something we advocate. In fact sometimes you just have to bring the crowd down because they’re very, very upset.”
“It probably could become your worst nightmare,” she said.
Bota is aware that some Saskatchewan farmers have taken to carrying firearms in their vehicles for self-protection when they are in the field because of rural crime concerns. She said she was not aware of any farmers in Central Alberta doing the same thing.
The crime watch group focuses on basic crime prevention measures such as knowing your neighbour, communicating with each other and locking valuables up. They bring in speakers at meetings who can offer advice like clearing property to make an area less vulnerable to crime, said Bota.
Her group tells a lot of people if they have rental properties or old buildings they should check on them once in awhile. Bota noted that a rental property in the Clive area was recently raided by police who found $400,000 in stolen property. Now a group of residents in the Satinwood area are looking at starting a crime watch group.
There are several Central Alberta crime watch social media sites, some open to the public and others are closed groups so neighbours can communicate with each other about suspicious behaviour or crime incidents.
“It takes a collective. We can’t operate in silos anymore. .. People are starting to get it,” Bota said.
Communication can be fast, she said. An attempted house break-in two weeks ago was seen remotely on a security camera by the owners who were away. Bota then alerted police who investigated quickly.
“It’s making sure you have communication and you know where and what to do with the information.”
People are frustrated with the justice system that sees people caught and then released soon after, Bota said. “People are really choked about that.”
But she said she is finding that rural communities are rallying together to fight crime through crime prevention.