Crime in and around the Village of Alix appears to have dropped somewhat since the same time last year, according to numbers presented by the local RCMP commander June 3 at the regular meeting of Alix village council.
Sgt. Bruce Holliday, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Bashaw detachment, which includes the Alix region, appeared before council to discuss crime over the past 12 months and some plans for the next 12 months.
Holliday stated crime trends witnessed at the end of 2019 appeared to hold consistency into the first quarter of 2020.
He said persons crimes in the Bashaw detachment area decreased 15 per cent, property crimes decreased 13 per cent and other Criminal Code offences decreased 15 per cent.
Holliday stated he believes initiatives the detachment are spearheading are having an effect on decreasing crime in the area.
For example, he stated RCMP are focusing on “hot spots” that are linked to crime.
Other types of crime included property crime break and enters (decreased 14 per cent), theft of motor vehicle (deceased five per cent), theft under $5,000 (decreased 29 per cent) and total Criminal Code offences in the Bashaw detachment area are down 13 per cent.
Holliday stressed the fact police always want the public to report crime or suspicious situations, as the RCMP can’t investigate something they aren’t aware of.
He noted that between 2014 and 2019, there was a 350 per cent increase in public reports of suspicious vehicles or persons.
Holliday also stated that police take reports seriously, as he himself reviews every file that comes through his office.
Coun. Ed Cole, a retired RCMP officer, asked Holliday what the Bashaw detachment’s “clearance rate” is.
Holliday stated Bashaw RCMP have “a very good” clearance rate of 24 per cent. He noted that the RCMP aim at a clearance rate of 26 per cent province-wide.
“Clearance rate” is when an investigation is deemed complete but doesn’t necessarily include whether charges were laid or not.
Council also discussed enhanced policing with Sgt. Holliday. He stated that extra police will be in Alix area Friday and Saturday nights this summer.
Coun. Barb Gilliat asked whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on crime rates.
Holliday stated it seems to have had an effect in that so many people were at home there was an increase in reports of crime.
However, Holliday stated it also appears the pandemic also resulted in more mental health and domestic situation calls.
He said calls did not necessarily include violence but came about from people being cooped up together.
He stated RCMP remained busy, but their work was somewhat different from normal. Also, the detachment had some restrictions in place for the office.
Mayor Rob Fehr asked how Alix compares to other communities of about the same size, for example, Rimbey. Holliday stated Alix compares well as it seems there are more calls out west than in the Alix area.
Holliday also reported on a few major investigations recently.
He stated a “significant prolific offender” was arrested and a new preliminary hearing set.
Holliday stated more than one detachment was investigating crimes they believe are related to this individual.
An armed robbery investigation resulted in charges and is going through the court system now. He said it looks like there will be an early resolution to this case.
An assault on police officer investigation was conducted after a police car was rammed. The suspect was charged and has already been convicted.
Gilliat asked about a spat of overdose deaths in the Alix area.
Holliday responded that there were three deaths in a rather short period of time, and one was revealed to be natural causes. The two others are still under investigation.
Holliday stated RCMP see roughly 37 deaths a year and sometimes they happen in a cluster and sometimes in a small town people assume they are related somehow. Holliday stated deaths are not always related.
Holliday stated he wanted to point out that a program running in Alix, the Alix Community Wellness Initiative, is a strong benefit to the area.
Looking ahead, Holliday stated he’s aiming at a seven per cent crime reduction over the next 12 months and boosting the clearance rate to 26 per cent.
Also, the RCMP commander stated he’d like to hold two town hall style meetings for the public to attend and discuss policing matters.
Some ideas tossed around for meeting topics included landlord-tenant issues, mental health and crime prevention through environmental design.
Coun. Vicki Soltermann stated, speaking as a landlord, the tenant issue would be a welcome one.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Journalist