By Nikki Jamieson
A rise in crime and limited resources had some Municipal District of Taber residents expressing frustration over the matter at the M.D. council AGM last month.
Citing issues with people drinking and driving and people causing a ruckus down the road where he lives, one resident asked the M.D. how to best contact the M.D.’s RCMP officer and get the area flagged as a hotspot.
Reeve Brian Brewin said that while they had one RCMP officer in the Taber detachment that is in charge of enforcing the M.D.’s bylaws, there are five officers in the detachment. Brewin asked that he make a formal request and they could talk to the RCMP about the road, adding they have had requests on it before.
“In my opinion, it’s getting worse. And with the truck traffic down there to that oil reclamation site, there are some pretty big rigs going down there,” said the resident.
The resident also talked about an incident in which he took down the licence plate of a misbehaving driver. After he got the plate the driver must have realized what he was doing because he had stopped, let him pass and then followed him home.
“You kind of feel threatened, you’re kind of a little bit scared to open that door.”
Although there are five officers working out of the detachment, another resident pointed out only one was on duty at a time, to cover the area 24 hours a day. Spread out over an area from just east of Chin to west of Grassy Lake, and from just south of Wrentham to north of Traverse, it’s a large area for just one person to cover.
Other residents also question just who exactly should they call to report traffic violations.
Brewin agreed that they do need more RCMP officers, noticing an increase in dangerous driving himself. If a resident didn’t feel comfortable enough calling the police themselves, they could inform a member of council or M.D. administration as well, who would take those concerns to the RCMP, although he did joke that residents shouldn’t get mad if they see an increase in speeding tickets.
When asked if they wanted council to look into better policing, a resident said he thinks hat before the province sends them more officers, more people will have to die on the highways. He also said there may be a spike in people taking the law into their own hands.He cited an incident where someone threw beer bottles in his potato fields and was told that the officer on duty couldn’t come outbecause he had to attend to other things, reiterating that the RCMP officers they have are stretched too thin.
“They are doing the best they can with the resources they have,” said Brewin. “If they don’t know about it they can’t do anything about it. So certainly let them know where some of the areas of concern are, it helps them also. But we will look into some other options, it’s what we can do on the enforcement.”
To help elevate some pressure on the Taber RCMP officers, the M.D. funds the position of an office staff member, to take care of paperwork so the officers could go out into the M.D. more. They also pay the salary of one RCMP officer out of the detachment.
Another issue is that unfortunately, traffic offenders seem to know just how much time they have to fool around before the police show up. So cars will often stunt for half an hour in one area and then leave.
Derrick Krizsan, CAO for the M.D., spoke of a spike in crime in rural Alberta, calling it a ‘soft target’, as people have a habit of not locking their doors. This has led to an increase in thefts in the region. Some residents and businesses have been installing security cameras in their yards, with one oil company cameras even leading to arrests.
“With the economy the way it is, it’s driving the crime into the rural areas,” said Krizsan. “There’s some small investments an individual can make, if you find that there’s people in and out of your yard that there shouldn’t be.”
The cameras have also led to some success in catching speeders, and Brewin said he had a neighbour with a camera on his fuel tanks, and was able to catch people stealing from them.
Another resident expressed his frustration with the court system, citing an example of a neighbour who left his truck when he used the washroom, only to find the truck was gone when he came back out. A Jeep from Lethbridge was left down the road from him, and when his truck was found, it had to be written off. He said the biggest frustration with talking with the RCMP was that current laws were too lenient, and in three months this thief would be out. Saying these guys were “brazen”, he agreed with Krizsan that they were a soft target, as they were far away and it takes so long to get the RCMP there.
“Sadly, it might be a reality of the world we live in, is that we’re going to have to start locking houses and vehicles,” said Brewin.