Rural crime to be tackled in new year
Crime: Provincial, federal conservatives looking to launch joint task force
Wednesday, Dec 20, 2017 10:58 am
Local officials are partnering up to raise awareness of rural crime and prove to provincial and federal governments they need to do more to address it.
Federal and provincial conservative politicians are working together to co-ordinate efforts in launching a rural crime task force, said Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson.
“It really is an issue, and obviously the NDP are more focused on urban centres and not rural ones, which is really unfortunate,” said Anderson.
Rural crime rates have been a concern for residents for some time, and the past year has been the situation grow worse, he said. The United Conservative Party claimed in November that crime rates in some rural Alberta communities have jumped by more than 250 per cent since 2011.
Late in November, 180 people in attendance from rural Alberta were disappointed when the request for an emergency debate on the issue in the provincial legislature was voted down by the NDP government, he said.
Since that time, numerous letters and emails from concerned rural citizens have been brought forward in the legislature each week, he said.
Anderson said it’s time to make it a major topic of conversation. With the federal Conservative party looking for the same thing at the federal level, he said they’re going to join forces in the New Year.
“It’s going to be a federal and provincial thing,” said Anderson. “The whole intent there is to wake up this current NDP government, and hopefully for the federal party the liberal government, to say rural crime is a big issue.”
The first step will be approaching mayors and councillors in rural municipalities and hosting town hall sessions where rural residents can share their concerns and experiences to be brought forward to both levels of government, he said.
“We’ll give everybody in our rural areas the opportunity to speak and give us some advice and ideas,” said Anderson. “With that we should be able to put together a solid working document to take back to the government and the Solicitor General to say, ‘Hey, this is an issue and you’ve got to do something about it.’”
It can’t come soon enough for MD councillor Delilah Miller, who has been working with Anderson to try to get the rural task force underway.
She said she heard a lot of stories and concerns during the election in October. Residents are frustrated because even though they’re doing the right things to discourage criminals, they’re still being targeted, she said.
“They’ve got security cameras, they’ve got gates, they’ve put out yard lights, they’ve put in beepers, they’ve got dogs,” said Miller. “They’ve done everything they can but they’re getting broken into on a regular basis.”
She said some people have even said they think the same people came back to their property three months after an initial theft, once insurance had paid for everything, and stole from them again.
“It’s become a real issue, especially in some pockets that are closer to major urban centres like Okotoks or High River or even the Priddis and Millarville areas,” said Miller.
Miller said she’d like to see tougher legislation introduced on break-and-enters, and she hopes the rural crime task force can help advocate for harder punishment and increased enforcement.