Sylvan crime efforts paying off

Sylvan Lake RCMP have been working hard to change the community’s summer image from party town to family friendly.

Sylvan Lake RCMP have been working hard to change the community’s summer image from party town to family friendly.

The latest crime statistics show those efforts are paying off, said detachment commander Staff Sgt. Gary Rhodes.

“The fact that all the crime types are going down means we’re being successful,” he said.

One statistic that corresponds directly to the busy summer season is the number of prisoners. In 2012, there were 188 prisoners who found temporary accommodation at the detachment’s grey bar hotel. Last year, that number dropped to 72 — a 60 per cent drop.

“That’s significant because a majority of our prisoners come to the detachment during the summer time; and most of them are intoxicated and people who have been involved in disturbances.

“The fact we’ve had a 60 per cent decrease in prisoners, I think that bodes well for the community.”

There are plenty of other encouraging signs. Assaults dropped 19 per cent to 145 complaints last year, compared with 179 a year earlier.

“That’s significant,” he said.

Criminal harassment charges were down 30 per cent to 37 from 53 a year earlier.

Sexual assaults were up slightly to eight complaints from six in 2012.

The total number of crimes against people was down 17 per cent — 246 from 299.

“Given the fact that Sylvan Lake is still growing and crime stats are going down, we’re very happy with that.”

A number of initiatives introduced in recent years are playing a role, Rhodes believes.

The town has approved an annual enhanced policing contract in the last few years that provides $60,000 so Sylvan Lake detachment can bring in extra off-duty officers from neighbouring detachments to put more boots on the ground on summer weekends, during Checkstop season and for special events.

“That has really changed the flavour of the beach from kind of a party spot with out-of-control people to a very family-oriented (beach). We’ve noticed that, just visually while walking on the beach, what a change it’s been over the last few years.”

Also, council has funded a crime reduction unit member specifically focused on drug traffickers, ongoing or serial crimes, and other emerging trends.

“We’re also targeting habitual offenders in town. We get intelligence and information from data bases so we know which people we want to focus on.

“So we go pay them a visit and make sure they’re abiding by court-imposed conditions and that sort of thing.”

Two new officers have been approved for this year, boosting the detachment strength to 22, including six who are dedicated to surrounding communities and rural areas.

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