By Greg Price
The local Rural Crime Watch continued to make the rounds to different councils in raising awareness of its organization.
Public meetings to establish interest in setting up Rural Crime Watch (RCW) were held in mid-March in both Taber and Vauxhall, and around 30 people attended the meetings overall.
From there, several people put forward their name to be on the board and they are currently in the process of receiving approval.
“It’s basically the Rural Crime Watch for our RCMP detachment’s area. We are in the process of getting it up and running, and right now we are waiting for the Alberta government to come back to us with a society number, which then we can have a charter in our area,” said Kevin O’Grady, president of South Central Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association at Barnwell council’s regular September meeting. “We’ve been going around to all the councils and letting them know what we are doing. Sending a letter saying who we are and asking if there are any questions for me to answer.”
With the rising rates of rural crime, O’Grady noted chapters of Rural Crime Watch have been popping up all over the province in recent years.
“In some areas it’s getting outrageous. I know personally one guy who has had three of his trucks stolen (with a welding company). The last one was one of the trucks that was replaced that was stolen. The last one was actually locked up in his shop,” said O’Grady. “Some businesses have one box with all their keys in it and that’s what they did, they got into the box.”
Working closely with the RCMP, town police and Community Peace Officer program, O’Grady noted Rural Crime Watch is another set of eyes and ears to help crime prevention and prosecution.
“The reality is, residents are the ones who know if it seems like someone doesn’t really belong somewhere,” said O’Grady.
Rural Crime Watch is looking to get onboard with a new mass communication app the M.D. has. The M.D. is migrating their website to a company called All Net whose product suite includes a connect app. The app is able to be branded and launched however the customer sees fit, and the M.D. is proposing taking a regional approach so residents in the entire region can benefit from the technology. The Connect Program App can be used to alert citizens to crimes, fire bans, emergencies, road construction, service interruptions, and news and events.
“That way, if something is happening in an area, automatically it goes out to everybody. Hopefully the information can be sent back to the RCMP. One of the biggest issues the police will tell you is the lack of response right away,” said O’Grady. “That can be part of our job, helping educate people. If you see something, knowing who to contact. If you are seeing something, don’t wait, call 9-1-1.”
The M.D. of Taber is more than 4,200 square kilometres, making for a lot of land area to patrol for police. Any set of extra eyes and ears will help RCW.
“For here, if there’s only one (RCMP) officer on at night, it could be an hour-and-a-half away (from a crime),” said Coun. Robin Hansen.
Barnwell council inquired what kind of signage Rural Crime Watch will have to deter would-be criminals. O’Grady noted signage will come once the society is chartered.
The organization is looking to try and keep costs minimal where membership will involve low or no fees, where perhaps councils may feel generous with a level of funding they feel fits once they see the benefit the organization has to their communities. During M.D. council’s July 8 meeting, they carried a resolution to approve $400 of funding for the RCW program to cover start-up costs.
“It’s crazy to say, but even just having signage has helped. It’s helped reduce crime in some areas as much as 60 per cent,” said O’Grady. “When you have a bunch of signs, some (criminals) won’t even bother in that area. Some of these groups are organized and are just looking for a quick get in and get out. Some groups have that one vehicle that is out there scouting and there’s where Rural Crime Watch can help. Locals know when something looks off in their area. Rural Crime Watch works, it’s just a matter of knowing what to do and who to contact.”
Rural Crime Watch was not asking for any funding for now from Barnwell council, but rather raising awareness of its organization and inquiring if council knew of any locals that would like to be part of the organization.
“Let’s face it, we are all rural. I even told that to (Taber) town council. If you are not a bigger city on that Highway 3 corridor, you are rural,” said O’Grady. “If you see something that doesn’t look right, it’s usually not right. (Rural Crime Watch) gives them the documentation. They might not be able to come right away, but it gives them documentation, it builds up history for them to follow up. This vehicle has been seen, this is what has been going on.”
Once the society status is fully granted, the group is planning on doing awareness/recruitment open houses in various communities.