Opinion: Rising crime in Red Deer is cause for concern

At the end of March, the superintendent of Red Deer’s RCMP detachment had reason to be pleased with his staff’s crime-fighting record. Now, perhaps not so much.

Unfortunately for Supt. Gerald Grobmeier, and for the city as a whole, the trend no longer suggests a reduction in crime.

Total Criminal Code files are up 27 per cent in the first quarter of this year. Crimes against persons have climbed seven per cent, sexual assaults have experienced a 20 per cent spike, and property crimes have risen a whopping 41 per cent.

Statistics for the final quarter of 2018 had shown that Criminal Code files decreased by 23 per cent, crimes against persons fell by seven per cent, and property offences dropped 28 per cent.

“We were able to reduce property crime 28 per cent across the board in the city of Red Deer, which are astonishing numbers. Usually, you don’t reduce crime in double digits,” Grobmeier, who had just taken charge of the detachment, said less than two months ago.

“We had fantastic results in 2018 showing.”

Grobmeier appears concerned about the latest numbers, as he should be.

“It’s not necessarily unusual to see increases after such a prolonged period of significant decreases, but we know we need to act to ensure this increase doesn’t become a trend,” Grobmeier said this week.

Red Deer police haven’t been caught flat-footed. They’ve assembled a squad to focus on downtown crime and developed an initiative called Pinpoint, which targets repeat offenders and crime hot spots. These are important initiatives that have undoubtedly kept the city’s crime rate from rising higher than it otherwise might have.

The superintendent and the city seem a little too quick to trot out the numbers from 2017, however, which were higher than today’s. This week’s news release disclosing the latest statistics repeatedly references the figures from two years ago.

If such a historical perspective provides Grobmeier with some comfort, so be it. It should come as little suprise that crime was worse two years ago — that’s how the superintendent was able to crow about the detachment’s accomplishments in March in the first place, after all.

There’s no ignoring the fact crime is on the way up. And it can be argued that statistics gleaned from a three-month period already constitutes a trend. In little more than six weeks, the second quarter and half the year will be over.

Given the extra resources taxpayers have put toward the RCMP detachment, the revelation of rising wrongdoing is worrisome.

The city approved the hiring of 10 new police officers in January 2018. This year, city council upped the ante by dedicating $730,000 over two years to further bolstering the detachment’s ranks.

The expenditures have been made with the intention of shaking Red Deer’s reputation as a high-crime city. Residents, and their police department, should expect it has been a wise investment and that the ground gained won’t be easily surrendered.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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