City chips in officers for new anti-gang unit

A specialized police unit tackling organized crime across Central Alberta will launch in Red Deer with the help of taxpayers’ dollars, city council agreed on Monday.

A specialized police unit tackling organized crime across Central Alberta will launch in Red Deer with the help of taxpayers’ dollars, city council agreed on Monday.

The city will partner with Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) to set up a regional Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in Red Deer.

City council supported contributing half of the costs, up to $150,000, towards renovating undeveloped space in the downtown city detachment. Dollars would come from municipal reserves and the detachment building surplus.

The city would also provide six municipal RCMP members — three Mounties already working at the detachment and the remaining new officers would be funded over the next several years. Each officer costs about $130,000 to $140,000 annually.

Community Services director Greg Scott said the city is contributing only a marginal amount compared with the province’s investment into the unit.

The extra officers are funded by taxpayers’ dollars, Scott said.

The province would fund nine positions — seven officers, one civilian member analyst and one administrative support position. Three federal Mounties would come on stream as well.

Red Deer is the only major city in Alberta that doesn’t have such a unit.

“We recognize because of our location, the ALERT complement will be good at helping us deal with crime in our city and our whole area,” said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

Flewwelling said he’s concerned about gang activity in the city.

“Anything we can do to interfere with the drug trade and organized crime is a real advantage,” said Flewwelling.

The funding for ALERT came up during city council’s first-ever public review of the municipal budget halfway through the year.

Coun. Paul Harris said the budget review highlight for him was seeing this major police unit being approved.

“It’s huge,” Harris said. “Red Deer is geographically located right in the centre (between Calgary and Edmonton) so it’s a really desirable place for organized crime…this unit will help us interface with all those other cities that (have ALERT), so I think it will really help us.”

Coun. Tara Veer said this new unit signifies that organized crime is a serious issue in Red Deer.

“I think it’s imperative that we have a strategic response to organized crime and that we send a very clear message that we take it seriously and that we will respond with enforcement,” Veer said.

Council also supported the purchase of an additional Action Bus.

“With our aging population, there’s a significant number of unmet trips in specialized transit,” said Veer.

Coun. Lynne Mulder said she really wanted to see an extra bus to handle door-to-door transit service.

“We have about 400 to 500 people who can’t get a ride on the Action Bus because we don’t have enough,” said Mulder. “We need to clear that deficit and then move ahead, so I had suggested (at budget time earlier this year) two buses at this time.”

Mulder said having this bus will really help and she expects it will be on the streets sometime this year.

The additional Action Bus will cost $70,000 to buy, with an annual operating cost of nearly $107,000.

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