Rural crime hurts us all

By Eric Rosendahl, MLA for West Yellowhead

Rural crime has had an impact on me and my family.

My quads, trailer and some other equipment were stored inside a fenced compound on the edge
of town. A few months ago, thieves, wearing hoodies to hide their faces and gloves to cover their
finger prints, cut the lock off of the fence, hooked up to the trailers and drove away with my
stuff! My family and I were devastated. Luckily, even though the security cameras could not
identify the criminals, the local RCMP acted quickly and were able to locate my property.
Everything was returned but there were still costs. I had to pay for the recovery and my family
and I were left feeling far less safe.

I had heard about crime around my rural constituency since before I was elected and this wasn’t
the first time that my family and I have been hit by this scourge. That’s why I’ve been working
closely with Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley and other members of caucus to find ways to keep
my constituents and their property safer.

The Alberta government recently announced $10 million and a new seven-part strategy to help
fight rural crime in communities across Alberta. We worked closely with the RCMP - who work
day and night to keep our communities safe - to develop this strategy.

The realities of policing in rural and northern Alberta can be challenging.

The RCMP have large areas to cover, which, as we all know, affects response times -especially
in more remote communities.

While we can’t change Alberta‘s geography, we can listen to concerns from citizens and
community partners, and we can take action.

This new strategy includes $8 million to hire 39 new police officers and 40 new staff, and
another $2 million for prosecutors to bring these cases to court. It will also help reduce crime by
equipping RCMP officers with the tools they need to work more strategically and effectively.

The plan includes making greater use of technology to target criminals, including rural bait
programs similar to the “bait car” programs used to target car thieves in many cities. It will also create crime-reduction units with specially trained officers who will focus on arresting
repeat offenders in rural Alberta, building on a successful pilot project in Central Alberta. Six
new intelligencefocused officers and four crime analyst positions will allow police to identify
these habitual crooks and target organized crime.

Rural police officers are vital to West Yellowhead and across Alberta and I personally
appreciated the level of skill and professionalism that they demonstrated while supporting me.
They do difficult and extremely important work every day. I want to thank our dedicated
policing partners for the work they do to protect Albertans. I’m confident this plan will give our
rural police officers more tools in their toolbox to fight crime.

This government cares about rural Albertans and their safety. Investments like this one will help
reduce the impact of crime and allow us to feel safer in our homes. I’m proud to see that rather
than cutting resources for front-line services, this government is investing in the safety and
security of Albertans, no matter where they live.

First published March 26, 2018, in the Edson Leader