Two peace officers will join Red Deer’s dedicated downtown police patrol this spring in a pilot project that’s a first for Alberta.
Although peace officers usually only deal with non-criminal matters, these two members will be trained to assist police officers with investigations into vandalism, mischief and minor property crimes, said Supt. Gerald Grobmeier of Red Deer RCMP.
“It will enhance their visibility and outreach to everybody in the downtown,” Grobmeier added.
There are now six dedicated RCMP officers who conduct foot, bike and vehicle patrols of the city’s core. The additional peace officers will boost the patrol to eight members.
Grobmeier added this will become the first integrated unit in Alberta. If successful, it could “grow” further, increasing the unit’s investigative capacity and strengthening relationships with the downtown community.
In other new innovations for 2021, Grobmeier is anticipating a new drug court, which is intended to lead more drug users to kick their habit or face judicial punishment.
He believes a new Alternative Measures program has already started in Red Deer. It allows first or second time minor offenders to be steered out of overloaded criminal justice system — if they complete community service or volunteer work, their charges will be withdrawn.
Grobmeier believes the citys’ new social diversion team, which allows trained social workers to respond to non-criminal disturbances instead of police, is already working because of more public calls to 211. The team started operating in January.
RCMP officers now do more police interviews by phone because of the pandemic, and a health assessment is required before an officer can enter a private residence.
Officers wear personal protective equipment, including goggles, for face-to-face interactions with the public.
While ambulance workers and first responders have lobbied o move higher up on the vaccination priority list, Grobmeier understands the supply is limited, “and we have to go along with what AHS (Alberta Health Services) is saying… They are the experts.”
He reports that local crime fell significantly in 2020 — partly because of COVID-19, and more people staying home, but also as part of a downward trend over the last five years.
Since 2016, thefts, property crimes are down from 30 to 44 per cent. Break and enters were reduced by 23 per cent, while mischief crimes fell by 42 per cent.
Grobmeier credits Project Pinpoint, a strategy involving police targeting particular persons, places and behaviours that are known to be associated with criminal activity. This includes doing frequent police checks on people who were released from custody on conditions.
It entails increasing tracking of repeat offenders, patrolling of crime hot spots, and getting more officers establishing community relationships.
Insp. Holly Glassford, of Red Deer RCMP, hopes Red Deerians will help keep crime down by participating in pro-active programs, such as the voluntary video camera registry, the free online 529 Garage bike registry, and with online reporting of minor crimes.