By Peggy Revell on February 22, 2018.
A memorandum of understanding signed between Alberta RCMP and the Alberta Crime Watch Association last week in Edmonton doesn’t mean big changes locally, but will hopefully encourage folks to join the southeast chapter of the group.
“Volunteers with Rural Crime Watch are the eyes and ears for law enforcement services,” said Shannon Pakula, secretary treasurer with the South East Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association, in an email to the News. “It’s neighbours looking after each other. We are not trained to patrol (as Citizens On Patrol are), instead we passively observe and share information to the RCMP.”
There are close to 200 households registered with the local association — but it is always accepting new members.
“We’ve been working with our rural crime watch for a considerable length of time,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Maxwell with the Redcliff RCMP detachment, so the memorandum doesn’t mean big changes for Cypress County and surrounding area.
Maxwell feels the program is having a lot of long-term success locally — such as through assisting several investigations underway for break and enters.
“The more people who call things in right when they’re happening, the faster we can obviously respond and get out there, and hopefully prevent the crime that’s happening, actually arrest someone and lay some charges,” he said, as one of the biggest challenges for policing in a rural area is the geography.
Pakula explained that part of the security of rural communities has traditionally been the tight relationships between neighbours and the recognition of strangers in the area.
“Rural Crime watch formalizes this relationship and gets neighbours talking about things happening around them. Being aware is a huge contribution to personal and community security,” she said.
The organization can get information out in almost real time, said Maxwell, giving the example of if police send them a description of a suspect vehicle, and how this information is then sent to all members. “And suddenly we’ve got 200 extra eyes and ears out there that can help us solve crimes.”
There has been an increase in property crimes over the past year, said Maxwell, saying a some of it has to do with the economy, but that it’s also due to the presence of drugs within the community.
“You don’t have a large number of people committing a large number of these crimes. You’ve got a smaller number of people that are committing the majority of these crimes and that’s what we’re trying to look at,” he said.
The organization also has an educational component to it, said Maxwell, including safety promotion and “target hardening” by encouraging people to lock doors, remove keys and valuables from vehicles and other actions that make it more difficult for a criminal to target them.
The organization is scheduling information meetings throughout Cypress County, while more information about membership can also be found at http://www.seabrcw.ca.