Cheryl McMurray, who owns land in Red Deer County and Lacombe County, has been a victim of rural crime. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff

SPECIAL REPORT, Part 1: ‘You fear for your life’ in rural areas

Red Deer County residents have dealt with plenty of crime over the years

The Red Deer Advocate presents a three-part series examining the scourge of rural crime and its impact on victims and the police officers who struggle to stop it.

Today: Acreage owners express frustration

Thursday: RCMP discuss challenges of policing rural crime

Friday: Getting justice is seldom easy

Cheryl McMurray knows how dangerous it can be to live in the country.

McMurray, who owns land in Red Deer County and Lacombe County, said she has experienced multiple instances of rural crime.

“You fear for your life,” she said. “You’re scared in your own home. You live in the country – I don’t want to lock my door when I go to my garden, but I have to because you don’t know.

“You have to lock yourself up – it’s scary. What about my grandkids? I’m scared to let them go down the road, even because you don’t know who’s down the road.”

The worst incident she experienced happened in Lacombe County, at her husband’s workplace.

“My husband came home and said there had been a robbery at the shop. We thought it was kids again – we had that happen a few years prior. Then, it happened again,” she said.

“They stole the computer and who knows what else they stole.”

McMurray and her husband had a security system installed shortly after.

“The next week, they were back and the alarms went off. We went ripping over there and they are brazen. They don’t care and they will dart right at you.

“My husband has a big Dodge (truck) and they rammed right past, scratching up his bumper.”

McMurray, a board member of the Red Deer/Lacombe Rural Community Crime Watch, shared her story at the group’s recent annual general meeting.

She said there’s only so much rural residents can do to protect themselves, such as installing alarms systems or owning big dogs.

“It’s gotten bad. People say it’s always kids, but in our experience, it’s not all kids. We’ve laid chase a couple of times because it’s frustrating.”

Police “tell you to cease the chase. Well, how do you cease the chase when they’ve stolen from you and wrecked part of your property? They go in through the barnyard, they drive through gates or barbwire fences, just to get to fuel or something,” said McMurray.

Tom Kean, who lives in Red Deer County southwest of Red Deer, said he recently chased a man off his property. It wasn’t the first time he’s caught someone on his land, he added.

“We’ve had people on the property at different times of the day getting into our buildings and stealing things,” he said.

“We have little or no protection. The law’s got to be able to do something.”

Kean, who was attending the crime watch’s AGM, said rural residents “don’t have any control.”

“Neighbours are a little farther apart, so you don’t have control over who’s coming in and going out,” he said.

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