By Cole Parkinson
Formation of a local Rural Crime Watch division has been well-received by councils in the area.
While the Municipal District of Taber is a main factor behind the program, Taber town council was brought up to date on where the program currently was and what they hoped to see soon.
“The whole purpose is to come and give some more information on the association that is being formed here. With the government’s push here to get more crime prevention throughout the province and rural areas, the RCMP is really trying to push the Rural Crime Watch program. What it does is, it works with the Citizens on Patrol, the Victim Services and other agencies throughout the province. It works with all policing agencies as well,” said Kevin O’Grady, president of South Central Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association at town council’s regular meeting on July 15.
Public meetings to establish interest in setting up Rural Crime Watch 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 and finalizing the board.
“What we are trying to do now is we are in the process of, we applied for our society so we are waiting for the government in that aspect,” added O’Grady.
“The RCMP were actually asked to spearhead this in the province. It was actually the NDP government that started to push this and get it going to stop crime throughout the province.”
With rural crime still on the uptick, O’Grady pointed to a further measure of preventing it as a reason for the RCW program to be re-introduced into the Taber area.
“I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to be informed of what is going on. For the Town of Taber, yes we have our own police force but there is a lot of issues where stuff is stolen out of the town and brought into the M.D. or vice versa. Usually, it ends up in Calgary or Edmonton to be sold. We are trying to get the eyes and ears out in the public so they know what is going on, who to watch for and who to contact. That’s the other part, do you contact the RCMP, do you contact the town police or the CPO program? That is our main purpose, educating them and keeping them informed,” he said. “If we notice something in the area we send it out to the members and they can keep an eye out. If there is a green SUV people have to watch out for in their area, they know.”
Another source of support for the program comes from the M.D. community peace officers who were implemented in late 2017.
Council inquired how much the CPOs had been involved in the process so far.
“Dana Butler, from the CPO program, he is our representative through the M.D. on this. The M.D. itself is 100 per cent supportive and they are actually going to give us some finances to help cover costs of getting set up as a society. Of course, the RCMP is our other contact with Sergeant (Gord) Yetman,” said O’Grady.
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.
Another organization the RCW program is looking to connect with is the Taber Police Service.
With Taber utilizing Citizens on Patrol (COP) since 2002, there is a need for the two services to work together moving forward.
“I have already talked with a couple. In going to talk with the COP constable, that is something where I hope I can get permission from the town to approach and work with the COP program in town,” added O’Grady.
“I don’t think the town can give you permission. You have to go through the chief of police and police commission to get that,” replied Coun. Joe Strojwas.
Council also asked if the RCW program was similar to Range Patrol.
“The old one was Range Patrol,” said O’Grady, who also touched on why the program had been updated and brought back to the Taber area. “Really within the province, everything was great. Crime was down but then you start having people unemployed you have these issues going around and crime is back up. They were really pushing to get it going again. Around here, it phased out around 2003 we figured.”
“At this time, it’s just an information session to let you know that this program is well on its way. We are just waiting for our paperwork, all of our bylaws are done. We’re just waiting to get started. We are hoping the more exposure we can get through councils and newspapers, that will really help us get going and get that membership,” added Margaret Plumtree, an executive with RCW.
Council was in favour of supporting the program moving forward.
“I think we would be foolish not to support this. I think this is an extremely worthwhile endeavour and I wish it the best of luck,” stated Coun. Garth Bekkering.
A motion to accept the presentation as information was carried unanimously.