According to Sgt Phil Penny of the RCMP detachment, property crimes are “hitting the ceiling” all over Alberta.
Penny visited Stettler Town council for the Mar. 1 meeting to review goals the detachment has set for 2016.
The recently busted drug rings in the Stettler area had a part to play in the rise of local property crime rates stated Penny.
“The clientele that they bring are contributing to property crime.”
As well, Penny credits the economic downturn with pushing people towards committing crimes they wouldn’t otherwise commit.
“You’re not dealing with a career criminal,” stated Penny of those he sees that turn to crime after not working for a year.
Part of Penny’s objective is to educate both businesses and residents, urban and rural, to use preventative measures to protect themselves and their property. Penny also believes that people need to change their perspective about property crime.
Several business owners have banded together and are meeting regularly to exchange ideas on how to prevent things like shoplifting.
Many owners see shoplifting as just a part of doing business but to Penny, “It’s not the cost of doing business, it’s a crime.”
Frequently, rural crimes, like people stealing gas, are not reported. According to Penny, people need to report those instances as crimes rather than accepting them as part of living in a rural area.
According to statistics reports provided by Penny, total rural property crimes went up to 173 incidents in 2015 from 142 in 2011. Urban numbers, while higher overall, did not increase as dramatically with 367 incidents in 2015 from 360 in 2011.
Drug crimes increased in both locales, urban rising to 60 from 41 over the same period and rural going to 23 from 13.
Person crimes, such as assaults, declined in both rural and municipal areas. Rural showed a dramatic drop from 2011 to 2012, 92 to 42 but then changed only slightly to 34 in 2015. Urban showed a similar level of change from 135 in 2011 to 110 in 2015
New objectives for detachment
Penny wants the detachment to place more emphasis on developing community relations, identifying and dismantling organized crime (drug operations) in the area and continuing to focus on traffic enforcement, specifically impaired driving and speeding.
Getting the Citizens on Patrol group back up and running, liaising with small business regarding shoplifting and maintaining strong communication lines with the community are all priorities for Penny.
Penny wants detachment members to be more visible in the community, whether that’s driving through school zones or checking in with businesses.
Council expressed their appreciation for the additional patrols officers are making through school zones at peak times, agreeing that the visibility definitely deters speeding through the zones.