By Cole Parkinson
As rural crime continues to be an issue in Alberta, a possibility of additional protection of properties vacated due to vacation or other circumstances has been explored by different communities across the province.
With other municipalities adopting a community peace officer vacant house patrol route to their public safety services, the Municipal District of Taber council discussed the possibility of adding this to their list of services at their regular meeting on Oct. 8.
“I think it is Bonnyville and they have a program where if you are gone for x amount of days, you can sign up and have the peace officers come and patrol your yard to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. I don’t know if that is something we would look into doing as well with the rural crime. If you are going to be gone for a week, other than letting your neighbour know, you can sign up and every day or every other day, they (CPOs) can make sure everything is okay,” said Coun. Leavitt Howg.
The M.D. of Bonnyville has introduced a vacant home check waiver where their CPOs will check in on properties of M.D. residents heading out of town, whether it be for a single night or longer.
Within the required waiver for the property checks to take place, it states the owner/renters ‘acknowledge and recognize that the Municipal District of Bonnyville Public Safety Department cannot guarantee that I/we or my/our property will not suffer any injury or loss,’ and that they ‘do hereby release, acquit, forever discharge and hold harmless the Municipal District of Bonnyville, its officers, employees, agents, assigns, and successors from any and all liability for any and all claims of damages, demands, and causes of action that exist or could arise, or other remedies against the Municipal District of Bonnyville, its officers, employees, agents, assigns and successors as a result of any damage or other incident to or on my/our property by third persons.’
With how many miles the CPOs put on M.D. roads on a daily basis, it was pointed out that the officers may already be in those areas.
“I think if they are doing a drive-by and they are already out doing patrols. It just depends on what our resources are,” explained Coun. Jen Crowson.
A question was asked around incorporating this service into the new M.D. app/website design.
“I can dig into that and see if there is an opportunity there. I’m not entirely sure where that would fit,” answered Bryce Surina, director of GIS and IT.
The CPOs also pointed out liability for these types of checks would be the biggest issue in providing this type of service.
“I’m not familiar with the program up in Bonnyville. My current thoughts are is that it comes down to liability, a risk liability that the M.D. of Taber has in regards to doing property checks,” said CPO Dana Butler, who also pointed out publicizing a vacant property would not be ideal. “I teach digital safety to kids and once the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t get it back in. I strongly suggest to them not to put on Facebook that they are at the hockey game or on vacation because the criminal element watches Facebook.”