By Greg Price
Taber Police Commission were privy to the Taber Police Service’s 2017 annual report at its June meeting last Wednesday afternoon.
In 2016, the Taber Police Service conducted a five-year strategic plan to review its priorities and establish goal setting. The strategic plan was created following a community survey, focus groups, and input from the Taber Municipal Police Commission and Taber Police Service membership.
“As part of our business plan, one of our goals as an organization was to better use our social media presence,” said Graham Abela, police chief for the Taber Police Service in some of his opening remarks on the annual report.
Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 2017, the Taber Police Service Facebook Page gained 575 followers for a total of 2,584. Total posts from June 1 to Nov. 30 were 53.
Abela highlighted the detachment’s high clearance rates compared to police forces for like-sized communities.
“One of the things I am most proud of in our organization is that our clearance rates are extremely high,” said Abela.
“If you report a crime in Taber to the Taber Police Service, there is a 61.21 per cent chance that that crime is going to get cleared by a successful investigation. That means we either found someone responsible and charged, found someone responsible and put on alternate measures, found someone responsible and used discretion, or the event did not take place,” said Abela.
Most up to date statistics for Statistics Canada come for 2016 numbers, with comparisons to Camrose (56.75), Lacombe (38.05), Brooks (56.14), and M.D. of Taber RCMP (47.31). Taber has hovered around the 60 per cent clearance rate since 2012, give or take a couple of per cent.
“Lacombe has dropped by 10 per cent where Taber has stayed consistent,” noted Joe Strojwas, town councillor and Taber Police Commission member in viewing the five-year clearance rate trends.
In breaking down some various offences, there were 105 reports of assaults , which was an 11 per cent decrease from 2016.
The 105 reported assaults in 2017 matched the average number of assaults that had been reported over the previous four years.
According to the report, in 2017, a citizen of Taber had a 1.3 per cent chance of being victimized by way of an assault, compared to the general population of Taber.
Property crime reports increased by 20 per cent in 2017, up to 384 from 320 in 2016. It is the second consecutive year property crimes have increased.
For traffic enforcement, officer-initiated traffic tickets increased by 31 per cent (2134) compared to 2016 numbers (1635).
Photo radar saw a steep drop from 3230 tickets in 2017, from 4429 in 2016.
In the newly implemented Community Standards Unit, there were 87 animal calls, 531 municipal bylaw complaints, 152 parking and 469 CSO complaints as the lead investigator.
The police operational strength is at 15 authorized members consisting of 13 males and two females.
Twelve of the members are white, two are Asian and one is FNMI. The majority of the Taber Police Service officers have between 11 and 20 years of service (54 per cent), which are numbers that are considerably higher than other police agencies in the province, according to the annual report.
Taber Police Service tracks its usage of force and in 2016, there were 19 incidents using force.
Of the 19 incidents, four involved injury to the subject and one resulted in injury to the officer, all injuries sustained were minor and did not require treatment.
In 2017, there were 15 police incidents involving force. Of those incidents, three involved injury to the subject and one resulted in injury to the officer. All injuries sustained in 2017 were minor and did not require treatment.
For professional standards, there were four citizen contacts for complaints, one external police service complaint (allegation of a breach of policy) and one internal complaint (two allegations of breach of police service regulation).
Four citizen contacts were resolved informally and handled by the Professional Standards Unit or the Public Complaints Director. The one external police complaint resulted in no action taken and the one internal complaint resulted in both allegations being sustained, resulting in official warnings being issued under the Police Service regulations.
There were 5135 police occurrences in 2017, making for 342 occurrences dealt with per officer. There were 274 people held in police custody for 2017.
The Taber Police Service budget for 2017 came in at $3,579,726, with $2,310,934 of that tax-supported, with government grants, fine revenue and sales and user fees making up the difference, for a town of 8,428 residents according to a 2016 census. The Taber Police Service for 2017 was able to finish $146,460 under budget.
Down 50 kilometres west on Highway 3, Lethbridge’s municipal police force cost $36.29 million in 2017 according to a column earlier this month by Mayor Chris Spearman, for a population of 98,198 according to a census in 2017.