By Cole Parkinson
With the Municipal District of Taber opening the doors up for their annual general meeting in late April, it allowed both the RCMP and community peace officers to give an update to residents.
As both organizations have been busy, the AGM held on April 30 at the new M.D. Operations and Maintenance building was a prime place to inform the public on what the two had been up to.
“Over the last few months, we have been working together to get a Rural Crime Watch group started in the M.D. of Taber and even encompassing some of the other areas. Right now, we have people interested from all over our detachment area,” said Sgt. Gord Yetman of the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP. “We held public meetings back in March and at the time we explained to everybody present at the meeting what the benefit would be to having a rural crime watch group for the M.D. and area. The benefits are obviously for more eyes and ears to the police to be a sort of force multiplier for us and finding out what is happening in the rural area. As you are aware, we are a fairly small detachment with a fairly large area to cover, about 4,100 square kilometres I believe.”
Since those meetings, more progress has been made in getting RCW up and running in the M.D.
“We held a meeting on April 24 where we brought together all the people who were interested in forming a board and we were successful in forming a Rural Crime Watch board. We have seven people on there,” continued Yetman. “The board is now looking at forming an association, they will be doing a membership drive in the future and hopefully recruiting people from around the M.D. to form that crime watch group. The board will be working closely with the Alberta provincial Rural Crime Watch Associate who will help them with the next steps in terms of getting the association formed.”
While the organization will rely on volunteers, the RCMP will be a key contributor in making sure dialogue is open between the groups.
“The RCMP will be involved and we will have a liaison assigned to the group so we will be communicating freely with them. We will also see some involvement from the CPOs and the M.D,” said Yetman.
With the introduction of the program on the horizon, Yetman shared a story of why the program has seen success in other communities.
“I remember talking to a young offender many years ago and he was talking to me about what deterred him from committing crimes in rural areas. He told me ‘the things that scare me off are angry dogs, bright lights and those yellow signs.’ Those yellow signs he was referring to was the Rural Crime Watch signs, back in those days.”
On top of RCW, the RCMP has plenty of other irons in the fire.
One of the standouts for Yetman is the RCMP’s focus on crime reduction and prevention.
“Over the last few years, the RCMP has put a lot of resources into crime reduction and crime prevention. What we have done is stood up crime reduction units, Airdrie has them, Edmonton has them. Those crime reduction units also have crime analysts working with them. These are people whose sole job is to go through files every single day and start looking for commonalities between say a break and enter in the M.D. and a break and enter in Lethbridge.”
A question came from former M.D. councillor Bob Wallace around how the RCMP and CPO’s were working together since the introduction of the former in late 2017.
“I like to think we have an excellent working relationship with the CPOs and with the M.D. That relationship makes my job easier as the detachment commander and we get together with the CPOs on a regular basis,” replied Yetman.
The CPO program idea was formed from a prior AGM where residents were concerned with the growing amount of local crime in the region.
With that in mind, the topic was brought to this AGM to gauge feedback from the ratepayers on the impact of the CPO program.
A question from M.D. resident Jim Rabusic was around how many hours and days CPO’s work during a normal week.
“Community Peace Officers, two of them, work 37.5 hours a week and their shifts vary. They work Monday to Friday but they do work weekends and some afternoon and evenings. Lately, they have been up early in the morning to get to some of the school zones. Officers have very flexible shifts, their only requirement for the Solicitor General is to work the 37.5 hours the M.D. pays them for,” answered Kirk Hughes, Regional Enforcement Services Sergeant.
One area of concern brought forward by a few attendees was around Range Road 164, more typically referred to as the ‘Walmart Road’.
In the 2019 spring M.D. Connection newsletter, M.D. CPO stats were presented and Rabusic found one of the provincial violations issued to be particularly interesting.
“Judging by the skid marks that are on that Walmart road south of town, I am very surprised to see there was only one stunting ticket handed out.”
Hughes explained that a different offence was usually handed out in those instances due to them being more appropriate for the violation.
“Usually in those regards, the ticket that gives us the biggest fine is speeding. Stunting is a lower fine than speeding and generally the people we stop on the Walmart road are excess of 40 kilometres sometimes,” explained Hughes, who also answered the notion brought forward around the CPO program being in place to generate revenue. “If the CPO program was to create revenue, we would make a lot of money. I think we have $40,000 in revenue listed last year. Two CPOs, their mandate is certainly not revenue generation, if it was, there would be a lot more angry people here. The majority of what we deal with is the educational component and community safety.”