Minister of Justice Alison Redford said Tuesday crime will happen in a community, but it’s a matter of getting a handle on it and finding new ways to tackle it.
“We need to be in a mindset of zero tolerance,” Redford said. “There are those times in history when we say enough is enough and we are there now.”
Around 100 people gathered at the Chalet at Westerner Park for a Town Hall to discuss safe communities and families.
Community members, local politicians and representatives from community organizations asked about judge’s decisions about bail, how bail is determined, police communicating with residents and even graffiti.
The meeting was organized by Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski and Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas.
Inglewood resident Marlo Ruttan said he wants drug houses pushed out of the community and harsher sentences for drug users so that law abiding citizens are protected.
Redford said fighting crime in the province is about challenging conventional thinking and being prepared to pass legislation that might be challenged by the courts.
Redford, who served as a lawyer for 20 years before becoming the minister of justice and attorney general, said just because something can be challenged doesn’t mean you don’t do it.
Recently the province passed the civil forfeiture act allowing police to seize property from the proceeds of crime even without a person being found criminally responsible of the offence. The Supreme Court of Canada recently upheld similar Ontario legislation.
But Redford said upholding the law is also about knowing how to deal with different offenders and helping people receive help for their addictions or mental illness. She said they can be dealt with appropriately in the justice system, but when they come out there is a need for wrap-around services for them, so people aren’t constantly returning to the justice system.
Some in the audience showed concern about the decisions judge’s make in allowing an accused person to receive bail.
Redford said in speaking with judge’s many agree that the legislation and laws they are given to interpret are not the laws they would like to interpret. But she said it is important to have public dialogue around these issues so that judges understand the community’s concern.
TerryLee Ropchan, president of Red Deer Neighbourhood Watch, asked if police considered having some kind of educational series so people know what and how to report what they see to police.
Red Deer RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson said he encourages everyone to report drug houses and other information they feel could be helpful to police because it can help them get warrants. He said if people are afraid to get involved society is in trouble. Simpson said it’s up to everyone to take social responsibility and to do their part.