RED DEER -- "We have to end the revolving door, the catch and release program doesn’t work.”
Those words from Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins regarding growing concerns over rural crime in Alberta.
Calkins was joined by Yellowhead MP Jim Eglinski at the Rural Crime symposium held during Agri-Trade at Red Deer’s Westerner Park on Friday where the two released a new report from the Alberta MP Rural Crime Task Force.
‘Toward A Safer Alberta’ summarizes the findings of meetings between Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MP’s, UCP MLA’s and rural Albertans, community groups and law enforcement since the fall of 2017.
It also aims to provide detailed insights and opportunities with respect to the best measures available to address rural crime.
Calkins says the biggest frustration heard during those consultations was the need for a new model in rural policing.
“The police are doing the best they can but there’s probably not enough police officers,” he explains. “When you take a look at the number of police officers per square kilometre like the Rocky Mountain House Detachment for example, it has 9,600 square kilometres to cover with a handful of RCMP officers, it’s almost an impossible task. So whether this is actually a policing issue or whether it’s actually a criminal justice issue, I think is what people need to make up their minds about.”
Calkins says however that he and many of his constituents believe the issue is a ‘revolving door criminal justice system’.
“Police do a great job of eventually tracking these people down, laying the charges and getting them before the courts,” states Calkins. “But whether it’s the judicial process or whether it’s the correctional process, these folks are getting out and just going back to the life of crime that they had before. They’re repeat offenders.”
He admits many rural Albertans are feeling fear, frustration, anxiety and anger with the rise of rural crime.
“There’s people that have been victimized continuously depending on where they’re at,” he says. “That can be something as simple as just constantly having fuel stolen from their gas tanks. But I mean people waking up to intruders in their home stealing their car keys and actually confronting fairly dangerous, sometimes violent people, there has to be some follow through on that in the criminal justice side of things.”
Calkins says the types of criminals police are often dealing with are those that can’t be rehabilitated.
“The petty shoplifter, we can sort that stuff out,” he explains. “But these are hardened criminals that need to be behind bars.”
Emerging from the Task Force’s work was the CPC’s Motion 167 which calls on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to study the issue of rural crime in Canada.
According to Task Force officials, the study would focus on assessing rural crime rates and trends, examine RCMP policing and staff resources and investigate partnerships with provincial and municipal governments and agencies in rural communities.
Following that, recommendations would be made to improve rural crime prevention and reduce emerging trends in rural crime rates.
In terms of policing, the report highlights an overwhelming public call for additional RCMP resources to improve response times in rural areas.
This would include more constables and more administrative staff to free-up front line officers.
According to statistics outlined in the Alberta MP Rural Crime Task Force report, rural crime rates in the province were 38 per cent higher in 2017 when compared to urban crimes.
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