By J.W. Schnarr
Vauxhall residents might not be calling the police over vehicle disturbances because they are just getting used to it, police heard from council last week.
During their regular meeting on Aug. 17, council was updated on July crime statistics by Cst. Jason Wierenga of the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP, who said there has been a marked drop in the number of complaints from local residents regarding traffic complaints in particular. In July, there was just a single traffic complaint made to police.
“It surprised me that there was just one traffic complaint,” said Wierenga. “Especially for the summer. It seems there would be more stuff going on than that.”
He added the single complaint stood out for police.
“I think it comes to our attention that things are going on here, but we aren’t necessarily being called,” he said.
“People sometimes don’t think it’s worth calling us because of the perceived unreal time delays, and what (is perceived) to be an inability to deal with the situation,” he added.
Wierenga clarified those perceptions do not represent the reality of the situation.
“We do try to make it up here and try to deal with (complaints).”
Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips said the issue with local residents not calling RCMP when they see a disturbance could be because of apathy.
“It’s summer,” he said. “Tires will squeal. Last night was a noisy night, and I didn’t bother picking up the phone, myself. I could have, but it’s Sunday night, and tires are squealing. What else is new?”
“That’s just the way it is,” he added.
Coun. Martin Kondor said he recently called in to report a complaint, but had issues with explaining where the incident occurred.
“Explaining where it was, was a nightmare to the lady on the phone,” he said. He noted while he knew the owners of nearby homes, he was unable to provide the dispatch operator with road names. Taber/Vauxhall RCMP calls are handled out of Red Deer during off hours, and out-of-area dispatch has caused communication issues in the past.
Wierenga said he could sympathize with Kondor’s issue.
“I grew up in a small town,” he said. “I know where you guys are coming from.”
Wierenga said information such as street names and license plates are vital to helping police track down lawbreakers after the fact.
“They are always going to ask you (about street names and license plates) because that is the strongest evidence we can get, and it’s a direct link to the owner (of the vehicle),” he said, adding he understood the difficulty in collecting that information at times. “If you are able to pick out some unique identifying features, that can really help, too,” he said. “It still may not be enough to lay a ticket, but that’s going to be a judgment call.”
Wierenga said ultimately, it’s up to a judge to decide whether there is enough information available to warrant punishment. He told council a judge had described the amount of information needed as “enough to hang a guy.”
“It can be difficult,” he admitted.
Wierenga said he had nabbed a pair of impaired drivers over the previous weekend while working nights, which forced him to prioritize his work. Both RCMP and Taber Police Service have stated in the past that it can take four or five hours to deal with an impaired driving charge and the resulting paperwork generated by the arrests, meaning police are less likely to be patrolling when a crime occurs. Some of the complaints police responded to in July included: two complaints of assault; one complaint of mischief; four complaints from other Criminal Code or Statutes; one 9-1-1 hang-up; one complaint of lost or found property; one traffic complaint; one bylaw complaint; and two administrative files. In addition, RCMP handed out a number of violation tickets in July, including: two speeding; one non-moving; and one Provincial Act or Statute, possibly a liquor-related fine, according to Wierenga.
There were no collisions reported in Vauxhall in July.
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