When a visitor to the Village of Alix enters town and makes the turn onto Main Street, they doubtlessly see the local mascot Alix-gator tirelessly watching over an award-winning community that hasn’t raised local taxes in years. But Mayor Rob Fehr said Alix’ solid footing right now didn’t just happen, it took effort from residents, stakeholders, municipal staff and councillors to win awards and keep tax increases to a minimum.
At a recent council meeting councillors discussed their village earning a Minister’s Award for Municipal Excellence for its “Partnering for Crime Prevention” initiative.
Mayor Fehr stated communities with larger populations usually win that award so Alix council was a bit surprised by the recognition. “I’d say we were,” said Fehr in a Nov. 13 phone call.
The mayor stated while he feels the Village of Alix’s crime levels are the same as other Alberta and Canadian communities, crime prevention was something Alix residents wanted to address. The village therefore undertook a multifaceted program,
Fehr noted that Alix typically has most of its crime delivered to it by transients or non-residents who come to the village from large centres. These visitors commit crimes in Alix and then leave noted the mayor. “The criminal activities you see in our community are not from locals,” said the mayor, who noted police have also informed him many of the criminals are repeat offenders.
First and foremost the Village of Alix undertook a public information campaign to let people know what they can do to make the village less appealing to visiting criminals.
Fehr noted some people may scoff at the importance of reporting crime but police can’t stop crime if they don’t know about it.
Fehr stated that the village wanted to give Alix residents a crash course on CPTED, or “crime prevention through environmental design,” which is a strategy that encourages residents, businesses and local government to design a community to be less hospitable to criminals. ‘Let’s not make it easy for these people, right?” said the mayor.
Fehr didn’t mean laying spike belts over every street at night, rather he meant doing things like lighting the community well so criminals are easily detected while the village sleeps.
“Criminals want to work in the dark,” said the mayor. He added that Alix encourages residents to look out for each other. “Know your neighbours,” he said.
The village also embraced surveillance cameras, particularly on Main Street so if there’s crime, the cameras can provide evidence that helps track down and convict those responsible.
One of Alix’s crime prevention strategies that seems to be unique to the village is the hiring of a security patrol.
Fehr stated Alix greatly respects the RCMP and its municipal peace officers, but police can’t be everywhere all the time and having an extra set of eyes in the village has paid off.
Fehr stated the security contractor has been instrumental in making Alix inhospitable for criminals with the mayor adding that he regularly hears positive feedback from community members about the patrol.
Fehr also noted that Alix council feels the added security is worth the added budget expense.
The mayor noted there’s evidence Alix’s combined approach is paying off, and it’s not just through awards that can be hung in the village office. He said numbers show between 2022-23 Alix has seen a 17 per cent drop in Criminal Code instances, 21.1 per cent decrease in theft from motor vehicles and 18.8 per cent decrease in property crime inside the village.
Fehr stated councillors recently passed an interim 2024 operating budget and it looks likely village council will not have to approve a local tax increase. “That’s always been the goal, to not have tax increases,” said Mayor Fehr.
However, Fehr stated finances are something that councillors have to look at every year because there are so many factors at play including the ubiquitous “unforeseen circumstances.”
The mayor stated the village tries its best to communicate with residents about priorities and stick to those priorities.
“We’ve been lucky in that sense, sound fiscal planning, getting community feedback,” said Fehr.
The mayor added the Village of Alix has good staff who provide reliable information so councillors can make the decisions they need to make, especially in high-inflation times like these.
“It’s challenging times right now for many,” he added.
Local Journalism Initiative reporter