After living in a “homicide capital” and hotbed of rising violent crime, Red Deer residents should be relieved to know this city’s main ongoing problems are with vandalism and graffiti.
“Do we have crime? Yes, we have all the same crimes big cities have. But do I think Red Deer is a safe place to live and raise a family and have a business? Yes I do,” said TerryLee Ropchan, executive-director of the Central Alberta Crime Prevention Centre.
She noted that a lot of local crime stats are short-term blips.
For instance, the city’s six homicides in 2011 led publications like The Huffington Post to brand this city the country’s homicide capital, but the very next year, local murders fell sharply to two.
Similarly, Red Deer appears to have a sky-high domestic violence rate, according to the number of charges laid annually and a consistently full local women’s shelter.
But Ropchan believes this is at least partly because police officers with the local domestic violence unit are doing their job.
They are identifying more abuse and making more abused women aware of resources in the community.
“People are getting the confidence to know that if they call (police) they will be helped, so they may be reporting more,” she said.
“The numbers sometimes tend to get skewed . . . Overall, this is a safe community.”
The truth about crime in Red Deer is that most is property-related. Ropchan said her crime prevention centre regularly fields complaints about graffiti damage and continues to sell a low-cost graffiti removal product — for one way to prevent more graffiti scrawls is to remove existing tags as quickly as possible.
The best way of reducing crimes, such as car and building break-ins, is to know and talk to neighbours, and to pay attention to what’s going on in your street, she added. People can pass on information to give others the heads-up about unusual activity. “With these kind of connections it makes it harder for people to commit crimes.”
At a Crime Prevention Week Kickoff held in downtown Red Deer on Saturday, representatives from Ropchan’s centre, as well as CrimeStoppers, Neighbourhood Watch, Citizens on Patrol, RCMP Victim Services and the city’s bylaws office were on hand to give pointers.
Amid the booths at the windy kickoff were graffiti cleaning demonstrations and information about RCMP identification kits.
Residents could also learn about how landscape, lighting, and secured basement windows can reduce the potential for house break-ins.
As well, any household can now sign up to be a Neighbourhood Watch representative, whereas in the past, only one or two were designated per street.
The next chance to learn about crime prevention is at the local RCMP open house on Tuesday from 11 to 5 p.m. at the main detachment.