Alberta is taking the lead on tackling rural crime with a unique two-year pilot project.
The goal of the Alberta Rural Crime Prevention Framework is to take a look at all aspects of rural crime, from cause through prevention, to find better ways to tackle what has become one of the most pressing issues for many rural communities and property owners.
The pilot project will be rolled out in Sunchild First Nation, northwest of Rocky Mountain House; Lac La Biche and Athabasca counties; City of Wetaskiwin; the towns of Athabasca and Peace River; Beiseker and Calling Lake.
Jan Fox, co-chair of the Canadian Municipal Network for Crime Prevention, one of the project’s partners, said no one else in Canada is undertaking a project like this.
“I think it’s very visionary and forward-thinking of the Alberta government to fund this,” she said.
Communities were chosen with input from the RCMP’s Alberta headquarters, which looked at statistics and other factors in putting forward its list of target communities.
“We are just beyond excited by the uptake from the pilot sites,” said Fox, who is also executive director of Reach Edmonton Council for Safe Communities, another of the project’s partners.
Fox said participating organizations are pleased Alberta is taking the initiative, whose findings can be shared across the country.
“The bottom line is no one is going to re-invent the wheel. We can look at wise practices in Alberta that can be applied in other jurisdictions and we can learn from each other.
“That’s the appeal for all the organizations working in collaboration on this.
“When we’re tackling rural crime issues, we know there needs to be a balanced approach. We know there has to be a focus on enforcement, but we also have to think about what is the preventative piece. How can we help this (crime) from not happening in the future.”
Jean Bota said the objectives are to build a deep understanding of rural crime and its surrounding issues to develop a model to reduce crime, while improving the ability of rural service providers to play a role.
They also hope to find ways to address public perceptions and fears about crime and safety and to improve collaboration between all of the organizations and agencies that are involved in crime prevention.
“Crime equates to broken institutions, broken agencies and, a lot of times, disconnected or broken communities,” said Bota, who is a Red Deer County councillor.
The project, funded with a $200,000 provincial grant using civil forfeiture funds, also includes the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association and the Red Deer-Lacombe Rural Crime Watch Association.