Although crime is declining in the town of Redwater, criminal activity in surrounding rural areas continues to rise, an increase law enforcement is working to reverse.
Redwater RCMP detachment crime statistics show a slight decrease in total criminal code offences in the town itself, from 258 in 2014 to 242 in 2017. For Sturgeon County, total offences during the same period were up from 77 to 206. Thorhild County saw a jump from 178 to 467.
“Total criminal code offences” is a broad category that includes homicides, robbery and assaults, and property crimes such as theft and breaking and entering.
Redwater RCMP Corporal Mark Joy, acknowledging that the uptick in rural crime has been “duly noted” by many people, said the situation may be a bit of a shock to close-knit smaller communities where people aren’t used to the degree of crime happening.
Joy thinks criminals may be venturing in to outlying areas from larger centres such as Edmonton, St. Albert and Fort Saskatchewan, partly to evade authorities.
“We're noticing that these individuals are now traveling to other areas that have another separate RCMP detachment who may not be familiar with them. So that's the issue. And now they're committing the crimes in our area and yet we may not know who they are because they're coming in, committing crime, and then they're leaving."
In March, the provincial government announced a $10-million action plan aimed at combating rural crime. One part of the plan is the launch of specialized crime reduction units throughout the province, including in the Redwater area. The units target prolific offenders, focusing on the individuals doing more than their share to boost the crime rate.
“And they're going to assist the detachment members in investigations, executing warrants, different other methods that's going to be able to bring evidence so we can actually lay charges and get these guys held accountable for their actions,” Joy said.
Although Redwater’s crime reduction unit is still getting off the ground, Redwater mayor Mel Smith is pleased with what he’s seen so far.
"Our region has so far, from what we understand, a very, very active and very informed reduction team.”
He added that although the new crime reduction strategy is still in its infancy, it’s already seeing results.
Joy pointed to some recent successes, including the arrests of individuals responsible for a number of oilfield well site thefts, as a sign that law enforcement efforts are working.
“We’re hoping that the future will actually see the same results,” he said.
RCMP have also been working on starting Citizens on Patrol programs in a number of communities, to help people be an extra set of eyes and ears for police.
Joy urges people to not put off calling authorities if they sense something amiss in their neighbourhoods. He gave the example of rural property owners who answered a late-night knock at the door to find two people on their doorstep asking to borrow a tank of gas. The property owners provided the gas but didn’t report the incident to police until days later.
“So potentially those individuals may have been up to some type of criminal activity. They might have been in a stolen vehicle. But we're not going to know that until after the fact when potentially it's too late,” Joy said.

Residents who notice suspicious individuals or vehicles, or anything they think an officer should look into, can call their local detachments or Crime Stoppers.

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