The United Conservative Party’s plan to tackle rural crime isn’t anything new, says Alberta’s justice minister.
Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, said some recommendations in the 24-point plan are already underway, had been taking place earlier or are out of provincial jurisdiction.
Red Deer-North MLA Kim Schreiner said the UCP was playing politics with this issue, twice voting against funding for new RCMP officers and instead choosing to study the issue further.
“Many of the recommendations the UCP made are to keep studying the issue,” she said. “Well, while thye’ve been studying the issue, I’m proud that we’ve been working with the police and taking concrete action to address the problem.”
The list of recommendations in the 24-point plan released on Wednesday includes educating the public on their rights and responsibilities when it comes to defending loved ones, encourage increased use of electronic monitoring of high-risk and repeat offenders and requiring basic disclosure by police and prosecutors by first court appearance.
The UCP held numerous town hall meetings before the report was released. The party looked at crime statistics, current legislation, government policies and interviews with law enforcement personnel.
“The fact of the matter is that families from across rural Alberta still don’t feel safe in their own homes,” said Angela Pitt, UCP justice critic. “The NDP thinks that throwing money at the problem is an effective solution, but there are long-standing, systemic issues that must be dealt with before meaningful improvements can be made.”
The recommendations were separated into categories including data collection and public transparency, improving victims’ services, crime prevention, protection of property, a repeat offenders policy and combatting court delays.
Schreiner pointed to the provincial government’s partnership with Alberta’s RCMP on a rural crime strategy. She said the plan puts more boots on the ground and targets prolific offenders in rural Alberta.
“It’s already making a difference in rural communities,” Schreiner said. “The RCMP have reported property crime in rural areas was down 10 per cent in May, just months after our government’s investment in the Rural Crime Strategy.”
She also said crime reduction units, which focus on arresting repeat offenders, have received praise from Alberta RCMP commanding officer Todd Shean and Central Alberta District Operations Insp. Peter Tewfik.
“As a former police officer, I have long been frustrated with the deficiencies in our Justice and policing systems that deny justice to victims and allow criminals to go free without punishment,” said Mike Ellis, UCP solicitor general critic. “I am proud of the work the United Conservative Caucus has done to consult broadly with Albertans and thoughtfully consider innovative and long-term solutions. It’s something this NDP government should have done a long time ago.”