New strategy focuses on more policing, less paperwork

By Jessica Littlewood, MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville

Alberta families have the right to feel safe in their own homes and on their farms.

In my work as your MLA I have heard firsthand accounts of our neighbours experiencing rural crime and took those very real concerns directly to the Minister of Justice, Hon. Kathleen Ganley.

On March 9, Minister Ganley unveiled a new, $10-million strategy that will add rural RCMP officers to our communities as well as rural prosecutors that will focus specifically on bringing criminals committing crimes in our towns and villages to justice.

The seven-point plan will also add civilian staff to support the brave men and women working to keep our communities safe. These staff will analyze crime patterns and help with data entry - more policing and less paperwork for front-line officers is the key.

We will also be piloting new Crime Reduction Units that go after prolific criminals. Some of these individuals have committed hundreds of crimes and they must be stopped now.

The Conservatives have asked for a year to study rural crime before developing a plan to combat it. They went so far as to vote against funding needed to pay police salaries.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. The Harper government, which Jason Kenney was a member of, cut funding for the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).

Not only did we fund ALERT, we increased this critical support by $3 million. In 2017 alone, ALERT laid more than 1,200 criminal charges against 250 people and took more than $7 million worth of drugs out of Alberta communities.

We will keep working in partnership with our valued law-enforcement agencies to bring our rural crime strategy to life. We will put funding towards supporting the good work of rural crime watch groups. We will formalize an agreement between police and peace officers to ensure there are more eyes on our homes and properties. And we will use new GPS technology to catch property thieves in the act.

Deputy RCMP Commissioner Todd Shean has endorsed this important work and had a stern message for criminals; “I can assure you, if you are committing crime in Alberta, we will identify you and we will stop you.”

I am proud to be part of government that takes the safety of our rural communities seriously. We aren’t just studying the problem, we are taking needed action now.

First published March 22, 2018, in the Fort Saskatchewan Record