Addition of six police officers in operating budget a ‘good start’: Tod

Six new police recruits are heading to Red Deer.

Six new police recruits are heading to Red Deer.

City council unanimously voted to bring six new RCMP officers and three support staff on board during Monday’s operating debate.

RCMP Supt. Scott Tod said the funding approval shows the city’s commitment to public safety and the importance of policing in the community and keeping the detachment strong.

“I think it is a good start,” said Tod, who was in council chambers to answer questions from council. “Given the realities of the cost of policing. It’s a very expensive business. I am very mindful of the pressure it puts on any municipality. I think it is a good start.”

Currently there are 147 police officers working in Red Deer.

Council heard that Red Deer RCMP officers handle 130 criminal code cases per officer compared to the provincial average of 90 cases per officer.

Tod told council that there is obviously a need for officers but there is also the reality of staffing the positions which is a challenge that most police departments are facing.

But the boost in policing wasn’t the only good news on the crime-fighting front. Tod announced a new joint police task force in Central Alberta.

Tod did not give away too many details about the new team made up of officers from communities such as Blackfalds, Innisfail and Sylvan Lake.

“We will be quite strategic,” said Tod. “I don’t want to say too much other than the main focus will be property crime.”

Tod said ALERT, housed out of Red Deer’s downtown detachment, will no doubt have a role to play with the new team.

“Property crime is driving our crime index,” said Tod. “That’s one of the biggest contribution. Not to take too much credit but it was a pretty easy observation.”

He said Red Deer has targeted prolific offenders which ends up pushing them out to neighbouring communities.

“The problem is they move to those neighbouring communities to get away from our police presence,” said Tod. “But they come back to Red Deer to do business … We need to look at a regional enforcement perspective because we are all dealing with the same people and chasing the same bad guys.”

Tod said they will be targeting these crooks and “putting them out of business.”

The policing budget is roughly $32.1 million out of the city’s proposed $329-million budget. The city will spend $559,650 bill to cover six new police officers and three municipal support staff.

The city is also on the hook for $132,150 to cover the provincial shortfall in grant funding. The province funds three police officers on an annual basis but it has not kept pace with increased policing costs.

Coun. Ken Johnston said the city is paying for police services and strategies that not only benefit Central Alberta region but the two major cities in the province.

Johnston said he is very encouraged about the task force and the regional perspective.

“But the reality comes back to municipal budgets cannot to be sustained at this level and at this need for policing without provincial support,” said Johnston.

Red Deer’s operating budget deliberations continue today. The proposed budget calls for a 4.31 per cent property tax hike on the municipal side.