By Greg Price
Positive community buzz continues on the walking trail expansion between the Trout Pond and Highway 864.
With the money the town has invested in revitalizing the area for recreational purposes, law enforcement concerns were raised at the June Taber Municipal Police Commission meeting.
“Is there a process for requesting the Town of Taber police that area along 864? I know it has been indicated several times that’s not the town’s jurisdiction. But is there a process we can undertake to make it under town jurisdiction,” inquired Joe Strojwas, town councillor and police commission member.
“As a police agency across Alberta, we have jurisdiction throughout Alberta. So it’s not that we don’t have authority there. The issue is when you get into the Police Act in relation to who has responsibility for policing areas under 5,000 population and not a town or a village,” replied Graham Abela, chief of the Taber Police Service. “The Municipal District of Taber signs an agreement with the provincial policing model which is the RCMP. The RCMP have jurisdiction in that area to enforce the law. We as a police service under a different section of the act, could not have authority in that area unless the Municipal District of Taber entered into a contract with the Town of Taber to enforce that area.”
With the area going to be opened up to the public soon, with a fishing area, sandy beaches and ample walking and outdoor space for leisure, Strojwas re-emphasized the need for the town’s investment to be patrolled properly for the enjoyment of the community.
Abela noted the Police Act does have provisions in it for the police commission to extend its authority to another place.
“It is more about liability than it is authority. Say you and Calgary came to an agreement, our liability would extend to Calgary. It can happen,” said Abela. “For example, we have an agreement with the RCMP right now that if they are out of position, say they are up in Lomond and there is a domestic that is happening in Barnwell. When the 9-1-1 call goes out, they know they can’t respond to that domestic within 30 minutes, they will call our police service and we already have permission from this commission to attend to Barnwell to attend to that call when the RCMP cannot respond (in a timely manner).”
Community peace officers under the M.D. of Taber do have authority in the area with provincial statues and bylaws that are in place, but the problem lies in not being a 24/7 service to patrol late-night parties and vandalism concerns. Also, the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP have a much larger land area to patrol given their staffing levels.
“I’ve already had letters from people from the dog park about issues that have happened out there,” said Strojwas. “Now we will be opening it up and there is the beach and the dock there and kids will go out there again and party. We have to make sure it is adequately policed. This is an area we are putting a lot of money into.”