Crime prevention centre anticipates, growth, changes

This has been the first year the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre on 51st Avenue has been regularly staffed and open to the public. It also may be the last full year as such.

This has been the first year the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre on 51st Avenue has been regularly staffed and open to the public. It also may be the last full year as such.

But if that is the case, it is unlikely the reason will be that the centre is shutting down so soon. Rather, expect that the centre will become new and improved in a larger facility.

If grant funding comes through, executive director TerryLee Ropchan foresees the centre moving to a bigger location, more groups coming on board, and the centre being staffed full-time for the first time in 2014. “Our space is limiting us as far as we can grow. In 2014 we’re looking forward to growth,” said Ropchan.

The centre came into being in March 2012, bringing together the Red Deer Neighbourhood Watch Association, Central Alberta CrimeStoppers and the Red Deer Citizens on Patrol Association under one roof.

In mid-January, it opened its doors to the public, with $19,530 in one-time funding it received from the City of Red Deer for operational funding allowing it to be staffed four days per week.

Now, though, other groups want to become part of the initiative as well.

“We’re in conversation now with three different groups that are interested in becoming part of the centre,” said Ropchan,

“That was always part of our growth model. We wanted to have a more inclusive picture of crime prevention, so that when residents walk through the door and need to access resources or information, the more we can give them the better.”

The year that was saw the centre active in the community, primarily through the youth action team it ran over the summer. Grants funded that team, which engaged in graffiti removal as “random acts of kindness” in neighbourhoods around the city and organized focused graffiti abatement events in the downtown.

Ropchan said she hopes for an expanded version of the team in 2014, and the plan is to develop a program called Safe Red Deer that will see the centre focus on one neighbourhood in Red Deer each week during the summer to find out how crime can be reduced.

“We’ll do community conversations and find out what are the problem areas, what is the neighbourhood dealing with particularly and then go out and do some (safety audits) to see if there are quick fixes we can bring to some of the problem areas they’re identifying. Then we’ll have a full community clean … and look for those areas where we can put a bench or plant some trees — whatever it’s going to take to change the dynamic in that neighbourhood,” she said.

The program would target 14 neighbourhoods in the first summer, and then the remaining 14 targeted the next.

Ropchan said the centre is in the process of applying to get charitable status, which would allow it to seek more corporate sponsorship and offer tax receipts for donations. She said each of the three organizations at the centre remain independent, but that their coming together takes some pressure off of each group’s volunteers.

Moving forward, she said the centre is working with the RCMP and the City to have more detailed crime statistics available so it can better understand its effect and know where to focus its efforts.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com