City takes wait-and-see approach to beat patrol proposal

Setting up a beat patrol program in downtown Red Deer could cost an estimated $1.4 million or pull nine police officers from other duties.

Setting up a beat patrol program in downtown Red Deer could cost an estimated $1.4 million or pull nine police officers from other duties.

Council supported the intent of Coun. Buck Buchanan’s motion to improve downtown safety on Monday but it drew the line on a new unit without knowing the outcome on pending changes to the federal auxiliary program and further discussions with the RCMP.

Buchanan’s motion suggested using auxiliary members along with RCMP officers as part of a dedicated patrol in downtown Red Deer. There are 14 auxiliary officers in Red Deer.

The federal government is expected to make changes to the duties and responsibilities of auxiliary officers this year.

“Council is prioritizing safety but because there are so many initiatives underway right now, it felt out of step with directions that council has given on the whole in other areas,” said Mayor Tara Veer.

Veer added until the city gets an official sense one way or another of the direction the RCMP is going with the auxiliary program, it seemed premature for council to adopt a focus or direction.

Concerns were also raised about pulling officers from other priority areas including organized crime and property and persons crimes for the focused unit.

Red Deer RCMP Supt. Scott Tod told council that the RCMP uses an Enhanced Policing approach to downtown safety with foot and bike patrols at strategic times. He said there is “constant and regular enforcement downtown.”

Tod said there are regular patrols and enhanced patrols on weekdays and weekends in the downtown.

Tod said he did not put much thought into the beat patrol strategy because it was just presented to him. The RCMP have a crime reduction strategy based on targeted enforcement, criminal analysis, hot spots, problematic offenders and social offenders, he said.

“The social offenders are probably the ones downtown causing not crime but visibility issues or complaints,” said Tod. “These are the issues we are dealing with. I think given your limited resources, the strategy we have embarked upon is probably more effective in using resources as opposed to a high visibility reassurance type of policing that this beat patrol refers to. I am not opposed to it but given your limited resources I think the most effective is what we have in place.”

Buchanan said his intent is to get a focused presence in the downtown so that people feel they are safe.

Later this year the Community Safety Ad Hoc Committee’s is expected to release its community safety strategy recommendations.

Council will discuss Coun. Paul Harris and Buchanan’s notice of motion on an advocacy position to the federal government to maintain the auxiliary program at its next meeting.

crhyno@www.reddeeradvocate.com