A tool to help address crime in Red Deer could be as simple as putting dots on a map.
Red Deer city Councillor Buck Buchanan has put forth a motion to start crime mapping, to analyze where, how and why crime occurs.
The process is used by communities across Canada and Alberta, including Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and St. Albert.
Buchanan said the aim is to increase awareness of what happens where and make the information more publicly available.
“It’s that awareness of what is going on and the mobilization of your neighbourhood associations and groups,” said Buchanan.
He hopes the information will encourage people to look hyper-locally at what is happening and work with neighbours to address crime.
“We’ve struggled here in Red Deer to get active community associations,” said Buchanan. “If that was an outcome or byproduct of the maps, that would be an impact I’d certainly like to see.”
As part of the motion put to city council on Monday, Buchanan made it clear that the information would be vague enough as to not identify specific addresses or victims. It would provide a general area where an incident occurred.
“The whole crime mapping initiative is to make people aware of what is going on around them,” said Buchanan.
When Buchanan was an RCMP member, he said he would get a couple of calls a month from people asking if living in Lower Fairview, now known as Riverside Meadows, was really as dangerous as they had been led to believe.
“It had gotten a reputation of being a big bad place to live,” said Buchanan. “I’d start to laugh and I’d tell them I wouldn’t even blink about moving my son or daughter into Riverside Meadows. We have areas in the city that are, crime wise, much worse. Once you get that reputation, it’s easy to get and hard to get rid of.”
He hopes the crime mapping will paint a more accurate picture of where crime occurs in the city.
Red Deer RCMP Insp. Scott Tod said he would wait to comment until council gives direction on where they want to go with crime mapping, but he did note some benefits from a preventive application.
The City of St. Albert and its RCMP produce weekly crime maps outlining the number of incidents and where they occurred.
Sgt. Carolyn Cameron of the St. Albert RCMP detachment, said the crime analyst compiles the weekly statistics based on reports made by members. The map is then posted to the city website.
“St. Albert really wants to see this kind of thing,” said Cameron.
“For example, here in St. Albert we get lots of thefts of vehicles and it’s from people leaving their vehicles running and unsecured. Hopefully when they see that (on the map), they’ll see vehicles are being stolen from their area they’ll stop leaving their vehicles running and unsecured.”
Incidents such as domestic disputes and sexual assault are not included on the maps due to privacy concerns. The plots on the map are not specific to the location.
Crime maps in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat take more interactive approaches. Incidents are plotted on an online map and by clicking on them, you bring up some incident information. Incidents are labeled based on type, including assault, property crime, break and enter and drugs.
The Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre attempted to develop crime maps in August of last year. However, the maps relied on police media releases and information gathered from community discussions, plus tips submitted to the centre’s websites.
Concerns were raised about the reliability and accuracy of the data.
Red Deer city council will debate the motion at its next meeting on Jan. 19.