Kneehill County RCMP sees jump in mental health calls, sexual assault

ECA Review/File
Written by Stu Salkeld

The RCMP detachment that covers Kneehill County is seeing increases in copper wire theft, mental health calls, sexual assault complaints and impaired driving. 

Councillors heard a detailed report from the commander of the Three Hills RCMP detachment at their Nov. 30 regular meeting.

Sgt. Jamie Day spoke to council in person and explained he’s attempted to send as much information out to the community as possible after taking over the Three Hills detachment and noted the office gets about 250 calls per month, which is a lot for a detachment of six people. 

Day stated rural crime has been a focus of his too and to this end he’s reclassified one of his officers as a “rural crime position,” to which he added he’s received a lot of positive feedback on.

The rural crime position has created a lot of buzz not just from residents of local communities but from the district and division. 

“We’re changing the game on how we’re fighting rural crime,” said Day.

The sergeant stated out-of-community prolific offenders are involved with most of the theft within Kneehill County and a big target for these prolific offenders is copper wire, a valuable precious metal commonly used in the energy industry. 

Day stated in October thieves hit Kneehill County hard looking for copper wire so Day put together a plan to bring in extra resources to focus on the extra crime. 

Some of the extra resources included the Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) and more surveillance.

Day stated the rural crime position is invaluable when these extra police resources arrive because the Three Hills constable lends local expertise to the enhanced resources. 

He pointed out the CRU is responsible for 32 detachments so extra local expertise is invaluable.

Day noted he’s happy to see suspects being remanded more and more into custody and less of the suspects being released after being charged. 

He noted suspects on conditional release are ordered to serve their sentences at home but RCMP have found some of them are instead involved in crime such as stealing copper wire from lease sites.

The sergeant stated he was also happy to see the oil and gas industry embrace the rural crime position, and are also working to make their sites less vulnerable to crime; he added there are over 200 lease sites in the region. Day noted this is important because the criminals are becoming much more sophisticated: they use specialized break and enter tools and try to cut power to sites to make them more vulnerable.

Day noted the Three Hills RCMP are also working with bait vehicles that are immobilized when thieves try to steal them; are attending schools to work with youth when requested; and when COVID rules allow, are arresting about 10 to 15 people on warrants per month as they travel through the region; and working cooperatively with Kneehill County community peace officers on projects like check stops when possible.

Day went a little bit more in-depth when discussing calls since April 1. 

He noted the detachment has dealt with COVID rule complaints and the fact that mental health complaints have greatly increased in the area, climbing to 80 in that time period. 

“We’ve seen a significant increase in calls in this area,” said Day.

He stated reports of sexual assaults have also increased over that time period, both historical offences and current ones. 

Day stated sexual assault complaints have increased 233 per cent. He added that there is one such investigation ongoing that he can’t comment on too much, but that when it is revealed will likely bring a lot of media attention on the Three Hills area.

He noted impaired driving arrests have also increased, particularly in the area surrounding Trochu and Elnora, numbering 20 since last April.

Coun. Faye McGhee asked what number of the mental health calls involve youth. 

Day answered, “Very low percentage. Most are adults. But it has occurred.”

The sergeant summed up by stating Kneehill County is a place where the residents seem to support the police. 

“I’m hearing a lot of positives that they’re seeing the RCMP in their communities,” added Day.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.