Local MLA planning town hall on rural crime

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Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt said she knows crime in the rural parts of her riding is on the rise and she’s committed to doing something about it.

“All of us have had pretty serious complaints from constituents in each of our areas. We’ve noticed certainly in the rural areas there’s a more escalated level of crime. In Central Alberta specifically, there’s been physical attacks on people after like the fifth break-in,” she said.

“People are being assaulted during these break ins and it’s becoming a pretty serious issue to the point where people are feeling very unsafe in their own homes, and they’re armed.”

Pitt, who is a member of the United Conservative Party (UCP), said she was planning to hold a town hall meeting in Airdrie in late January/early February along with Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards to engage with constituents and get a better understanding of the issues faced by rural residents.

“We had one in Red Deer this summer and it was super successful. We’ll also get the RCMP and crime watches (to come) – those are the fine details we’re just starting to put together,” she said.

“Officially, it’s not a UCP thing – officially, it’s just an Airdrie ‘what can we do to figure this thing out?’”

More information on the town hall will be released in the next few weeks, she said.

Pitt is part of the United Conservative Party’s (UCP) Task Force on Rural Crime along with MLAs Mike Ellis and Don MacIntrye. The task force was formed by UCP leader Jason Kenney in November 2017 in response to what the UCP said is increasing reports of rural crime, which the UCP claims is also increasing in the magnitude of violence.

According to a release issued by the UCP Nov. 17, 2017, the task force will spend the next months traveling to a number of rural communities facing increasing levels of crime and engaging constituents in conversations about solutions.

“We’re essentially going to continue to travel across Alberta and talk to constituents and law enforcement agencies, rural crime watches – anybody involved in crime (prevention) in the areas we visit – and, first of all, hear what’s going on in those areas,” Pitt said. “I don’t think that everything is quite the same all the way across the province. I think there’s definitely different things happening in different areas.

“We want to listen to those concerns and get some ideas on how people in those areas best think we, in the official opposition, can voice their concerns to the government and/or make these changes.”

The UCP attempted to provoke an emergency debate on rural crime in the Alberta Legislature Nov. 27, 2017, but were unsuccessful, according to Pitt.

“It was denied by the government at that time, so the 100 or so residents that came up were not able to see the MLAs in the Legislature debate the issue of crime in Alberta,” she said.

The leader of the UCP at the time, Jason Nixon, called the increase in rural crime “an epidemic.” Despite their attempts to spark an emergency debate, Speaker Bob Wanner said the UCP request didn’t meet the emergency criteria.

Pitt said she and many of her colleagues in the UCP have already had conversations with local law enforcement about the “escalating levels of rural crime.”

“A lot of law enforcement agencies have reached out to the MLAs initially, and sometimes that’s what sparked some of the initial alarms,” she said.

“There’s definitely a shortage in resources across the province.”

A spokesperson for the RCMP in Alberta said in an email to the Rocky View Weekly, the agency “acknowledges that rising property crime in Alberta has been an issue. We also understand that people feel vulnerable and frustrated.”

According to the spokesperson, the RCMP has prioritized crime reduction and will focus on targeting crime trends, working to alleviate some of the public’s concerns about rising crime and look at the root causes of crime.

The RCMP is currently implementing a number of initiatives across the province to reduce crime, according to the spokesperson, including stepping up the monitoring of habitual offenders and working with other law enforcement agencies to “enhance our abilities to ensure the safety and security of the communities we serve.”

“We have a problem; we know that. Everybody knows that, but we don’t want people sleeping in their shops, armed to the teeth,” Pitt said.

“These people will go to jail if they shoot somebody. I really do fear that’s the point that we’re at.”

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