Public complaint calls to Red Deer City RCMP have been cut in half since the city was divided into eight policing zones.
Supt. Brian Simpson told a town hall gathering on Wednesday night that local police are getting an average of about 750 calls weekly so far this year. This compares to an average of 1,250 weekly calls for service last year.
The sizeable decline suggests dividing the city into policing zones is working far better than when Red Deer was simply divided into north and south, said Simpson.
He also credited the City of Red Deer for increasing local police officers, noting that 14 are on duty, compared to the six or seven that were working during each shift three years ago.
Simpson told the 20 people who came to hear his overview of policing in the city that officers have grown familiar with their particular policing zone and the kind of problems that crop up there.
Once suspicious locations are identified and regularly patrolled and criminals are arrested, there are fewer crimes that people have to call police about, Simpson explained.
“There’s a higher level of knowledge. (Officers) know where people are going to go, where the traffic happens, and the walking routes.”
Simpson was asked which zone in the city has the highest crime rate, but refused to say.
Criminal activity hops around the city so much it would be unfair to label a particular area today, since its crime rate could be much lower in a month or two, said Simpson.
“It fluctuates. We can see it changing week by week.”
He believes the biggest drop in crime over the last couple of years happened in Red Deer’s downtown.
Simpson noted several bars were closed and social housing projects were started at the former Buffalo and Valley hotels.
He credited social service agencies for co-operating to help homeless people with addictions.
It’s a myth that the north side of the city is more crime ridden, said Simpson, who told the small crowd that some very nice areas in the south end of Red Deer “get very busy.” He noted that the last shooting in the city took place in the Inglewood.
Many crimes happen within a short radius of a drug house — once it’s shut down, Simpson said neighbourhood break ins and other crimes tend to drop. Conversely, these same activities will flare up wherever drug dealers set up shop.
He advised residents to get to know their neighbours and to greet strangers on their street. Innocent people will consider it a friendly gesture, while criminals will feel uncomfortable to be observed and will clear out, he said.
Residents heard the new three-officer police fraud unit is already making headway, especially at solving Internet-related crimes. Local domestic violence cases jumped by more than 900 per cent over the last five years, but Simpson believes this is because more cases are coming to light because of the good work done by social agencies.
He believes police are making a dent in drug and gang activities, even though many local officers have only been on the job for a couple of years. Simpson said this lack of experience is due to demographics and RCMP recruitment patterns.