Plans for a new regional police task force to crack down on property crimes around Red Deer were applauded by mayors and police officials in neighbouring communities.
Criminals don’t observe the same boundaries as police detachments and operate in many different centres, said Cpl. Jeff Hildebrandt of Innisfail RCMP. “Every day we are working with criminals from Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Olds — and even Edmonton and Calgary because we’re on Hwy 2.”
While Hildebrandt wants to learn more details about the task force, he welcomes any effort to work closer “and expand our police capabilities.”
Plans for a joint police effort were broadly outlined on Monday by Supt. Scott Tod of the Red Deer City RCMP. After getting funding approval from Red Deer city council to hire six more officers and three support staff, Tod revealed plans for a regional police team to focus on solving property crimes across Central Alberta.
Tod said the task force would include officers from communities such as Blackfalds, Innisfail and Sylvan Lake who are affected by criminals from Red Deer.
Since Red Deer RCMP has targeted prolific offenders, those criminals have moved out to neighbouring communities “to avoid our police presence,” said Tod. “We need to look at a regional enforcement perspective because we are all dealing with the same people and chasing the same bad guys.”
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre believes police already co-operate between detachments, but he applauds any additional effort to increase law enforcement and make it easier for police to keep communities safe.
So does Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol, who praised the idea, saying “a few individuals are wreaking great havoc” in multiple communities through thefts, break-ins and other property crimes. “There’s not thousands of people doing this, it’s a small group causing so much grief.”
Communities along Hwy 2 are often targeted by criminals who operate up and down the corridor, added Stol, who expects to learn more about the regional task force plans at a local policing meeting at the end of January. “I’d welcome any productive solutions to curb this problem.”
While Lacombe has its own police force, the city’s Mayor Steve Christie hopes a Lacombe officer will be part of the RCMP joint task force.
Three times this week, Lacombe Police Service charged criminals from outside the community for committing crimes within the city:
l Drug trafficking paraphernalia and $5,000 worth of methamphetamine and cocaine were seized on Jan. 8 after police arrested two suspects sitting in a stolen vehicle. Two Edmonton men were charged with several offences.
l On Jan. 2, stolen property, as well as a weapon, a quantity of methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana were seized by Lacombe police from suspicious vehicle. A Blackfalds man was charged with 12 offences.
l Another Blackfalds resident was charged by Lacombe police early Tuesday when some break-in instruments and methamphetamine were found on a suspicious male spotted wandering around an industrial area of the city.
Lacombe police Chief Steve Murray said a strong message is being sent to criminals who are “coming to our community to violate the safety and sanctity of our residents and their property. … This kind of criminal activity will not be tolerated.”
Other police detachments are also facing criminals from the outside their area.
On Monday night, Three Hills RCMP charged a Red Deer man with car theft after a vehicle was stolen from Three Hills.