Preliminary statistics from 2013 show crime levels in Red Deer down nearly 10 per cent from the year prior, a year when the city was particularly hard hit with crimes to both persons and property.
There were fewer robberies, sexual offences, assaults and break and enters in the city in 2013, contributing to an overall 9.8 per cent decrease from 2012. The 2013 numbers are preliminary and do not include some files from late in the year that will ultimately push the totals up.
The preliminary numbers reveal 3,042 crimes against persons in 2013, down almost 19 per cent from 3,743 in 2012. The number of property crimes fell by more than 800 to 10,782 for the year, a decrease of seven per cent.
The decrease almost completely reverses the 11 per cent increase in the crime rate realized between 2011 and 2012. In the past year, council committed to hiring eight more RCMP officers for the city and the local Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) targeting organized crime was set up.
“If you target those people who are causing all the crime, and get those people in jail, you’re going to be effective and lower the crime rate. Now that that section is up and running, that’s a great benefit to the area,” said Red Deer RCMP acting police superintendent David Elliott.
He said 2013 crime numbers are similar to statistics from 2008. In 2012, there was a lot more crime activity in the city, he said.
Mayor Tara Veer echoed the sentiment that ALERT has made a difference in reducing crime across the board by targeting organized crime and those in the drug trade.
She said there have been philosophical shifts in the city’s attitude towards public safety as evidenced by the municipal budgets of 2013 and this year, “from more reactive policing where a call comes in and they respond if it’s an emergency situation to more proactive policing, where there’s actually time allocated within an officer’s work shift where they can proactively investigate and follow up with concerns.”
In the past year, city council adopted a policing standards model that set guidelines for response times to the most urgent cases. Veer said this year she would like to see improved responses to smaller incidents as well.
“Right now most of the frustration that we hear from citizens with respect to when they call for a police response is around the priority three calls. Those are important calls, but non-emergency calls. We’re looking at doing a pilot for that in the coming year,” she said.
Her personal goal, she said, is to make headway going forward in reducing crimes on persons, particularly violent crimes. The city was blighted by six murders in 2011, earning it the dubious distinction of being named the second most dangerous city in Canada by Maclean’s magazine.
In both 2012 and 2013 there were only two homicides reported. Offences related to death, sexual offences, and assaults were all down significantly in 2013, but cases of kidnappings/abductions and extortion rose.
Among property crimes, there were more fraud cases reported in 2013 and there was a 24 per cent increase in motor vehicle thefts. Elliott said in 2013 there was an group of thieves that specifically targeted Ford trucks, driving up numbers.
The number of RCMP personnel working in Red Deer sits at 131 right now, with 72 officers on the front line responding to calls, according to Elliott. Last summer council approved the hiring of eight new officers for the force to start in the fall — four for the front line and four supervisors — and while people have been hired for those positions, some of the officers are still not yet in Red Deer because they have been unable to sell their houses in the communities of their current/former postings.