Zone policing working well: Supt. Simpson

A new way of doing policing in Red Deer is helping to improve response times to complaints.

A new way of doing policing in Red Deer is helping to improve response times to complaints.

Supt. Brian Simpson told the City of Red Deer’s crime prevention advisory committee on Tuesday that zone policing is working well after being introduced just over a year ago.

The city detachment set up eight zones. Police officers on shift are then responsible to man a certain area of the city.

Formerly, when someone dialed for police assistance, the Mountie who was available responded, no matter if they were clear across town.

“You just took the next call,” Simpson said. “It didn’t make sense.”

He said the old way wasted time. Simpson highlighted how one constable responded to three separate complaints and it took him 20 minutes to drive to each location.

Simpson said the initial challenge was how to deploy the resources under this new regime.

He had six or seven members on a watch or shift. Now the detachment has an average of 14 members per watch, making it easier to assign them to zones. These are general duty officers, plus supervisors and a sergeant.

“We have the capacity to put each member in a zone, sometimes two, depending on how busy they are,” said Simpson. “The supervisors can move their people where they want them to.”

Although they can be switched around, the officers are generally assigned a zone for six months so they can get to know it.

“The goal is to get them to know the city, but in increments,” Simpson said.

The detachment also started a fraud unit earlier this year. Formerly, these crimes were handled by the property crime section and general duty officers.

“Those files need time, they are a paper chase,” Simpson said. “We’ve already had significant success locally and also on an international scale dealing with Internet fraud and other things.”

The RCMP will also add a cultural liaison position dedicated to working with immigrants and letting them know how policing works here. In turn, those newcomers can inform what their issues are in the community.

“We’re seeing other cultural groups — a lot of them from countries where policing isn’t looked at in a positive light.”

Simpson also spoke of crime trends being seen across the country, including locally. For one thing, he said drug dealers used to deal in grams.

“We’re now seeing our street level dealers with up to the kilo level,” he said.

Crimes of violence are also a concern.

“Kidnapping, you wouldn’t have heard in the police world five years ago,” Simpson said. “It’s a big issue. Is it reported to the police? Most times it’s not because it’s a drug debt owed. Extortion happens through the family, through friends.”