Sylvan Lake’s crime rate drops

Sylvan Lake’s crime rate dropped — dramatically in several categories — between 2006 and 2010, recent RCMP statistics show.

Sylvan Lake’s crime rate dropped — dramatically in several categories — between 2006 and 2010, recent RCMP statistics show.

In a report presented to town council this week, a five-year overview showed the number of crimes involving assaults, break and enters, mischief, thefts, thefts from vehicles and drugs were all lower in 2010 than they were in 2006.

Assaults were down to 109 in 2010 from 119 in 2006 but well below the peak of 156 in 2008. Similarly, thefts were down to 229 from 310 five years earlier and a peak of 358 in 2007.

Drug charges were 42 in 2010, down from the five-year peak of 72 in 2006.

Overall, property crimes were down, with 615 in 2010 from 695 in 2006 and a peak of 830 in 2007. Total Criminal Code offences were 1,253 in 2010, compared with 1,374 in 2006 and the peak of 1,575 in 2007.

Not all areas showed a decline. Criminal Code and provincial traffic offences were both higher in 2010. Crimes against persons were also up slightly in 2010 with 156 compared with 154 in 2006. However, the numbers were far below the five-year peak of 225 in 2008.

Mayor Susan Samson was understandably pleased to see that crime was falling in most major categories. She attributes it to a higher ratio of police to residents on a per capita basis than many similar-sized communities. At full complement, 15 officers serve the town of around 11,000.

“That, in conjunction with the $60,000 we spend a year in enhanced policing has really changed the feel of Sylvan Lake and enhanced the safety of both the visitors and the citizens here,” said the mayor. RCMP bolsters its manpower with additional reinforcements from surrounding detachments on busy summer weekends.

Samson credits the hard work of the detachment for much of the success. RCMP have also been helped by the addition of full-time bylaw staff and a pair of seasonal bylaw officers hired during summer months.

“Also, it was made clear to the detachment and through working with them that we wanted this to be a family-oriented community. And to do that we need to work together and stop doing things like the Trauma Tour because that just doesn’t promote who we want to be.”

The Trauma Tour, which featured extreme sports, including wakeboarding and motorcycle jumping, as well as rock bands and a bikini contest, was dropped in 2007 when the town refused to allow organizers to turn it into a two-day event.

While popular, the event proved rowdy and taxed RCMP resources.

RCMP acting detachment commander Cpl. Malcolm Callihoo said some of the decline in offences involving liquor or the number of prisoners held in cells can be attributed partly to a major project to overhaul Lakeshore Drive.

Ongoing construction has reduced the number of people gathering in the area.

Callihoo, who has served in Sylvan Lake since 2008, also believes a concerted effort in crime prevention is also making its mark.

“As Sylvan Lake is a resort town there are quite a lot of people who come into this area and we have adopted a zero-tolerance attitude to public disorder.”

Callihoo said that has paid off in recent years with fewer tickets written for liquor offences and other problems. “I know that word has spread,” he said.

The town has also been very supportive in passing legislation such as the community standards bylaw passed in 2009. The bylaw gives police and bylaw officers the option of handing out tickets for unruly behaviour.

Anyone placing graffiti on property or making noise could face fines ranging from $50 to $2,500 for a first-time offence and brawlers risk a fine of $500 for a first-time offence of fighting in public.

Traffic offences are one of the areas bucking the trend. Criminal Code offences hit 187 in 2010, up from 114 in 2006. Provincial traffic offences rose sharply to 960 from 512 five years earlier.

Callihoo said one of the goals in the detachment in the last couple of years has been to boost police presence in the public and more traffic enforcement is part of that effort.

“In general, we’ve been trying to do our best to ensure crime does stay down in this community and we’re continuing to do that.”

— copyright Red Deer Advocate