Notes from the MLA: Rural Crime Strategy shows importance of working together

Danielle Larivee
MLA for Lesser Slave Lake

Panic. Anger. Frustration. Anyone who has had something stolen knows those feelings. And how intense they can be.

I’ve had my own experience of shock and helplessness, years ago, when someone took a motorbike from our garage. The theft itself was worrying, but I immediately thought about my home and family.

Rural crime is a concern for a lot of Albertans. Theft and property crime has increased these past few years.

When I see posts about stolen quads and break-ins at shops from friends on Facebook, I get angry. And when people talk to me about it, they want to know what the Alberta government is doing.

I tell them that every Albertan deserves to feel safe in their own home.

As someone who has felt the sting, I’m committed to advocating for doing more to prevent rural crime.

I also tell them that my friend and colleague, Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, is passionate about keeping Alberta safe. She’s listening to rural Albertans and has taken action. In consultation with the RCMP, our government developed a seven-point action plan to address rural crime last year, putting more resources into rural Alberta and into keeping people safe.

In rural communities, this has meant more boots on the ground. In our courts, it has meant more Crown prosecutors working to turn charges into convictions.

It has also meant a special task force that targets repeat offenders and resources to make it easier for police to share information.

Earlier this month, Alberta RCMP gave an update six months into our Rural Crime Strategy.

We’re starting to see promising results. Rural property crime is down 11 per cent compared to last year. Between January and July, there were 366 fewer break and enters, 648 fewer vehicle thefts, and 2,358 fewer thefts in RCMP jurisdictions across the province. Province-wide, we’ve seen a decrease of 25 per cent from July 2017 to July 2018.

Integrated crime reduction units have been particularly helpful, with specialized police officers targeting frequent fliers and prolific offenders.

Since launching in February, these crime reduction units have made more than 500 arrests and laid more than 1,600 charges.

When I see these numbers, I know that these aren’t just statistics. The numbers mean more than what won’t be stolen. What’s really important is that Albertans feel safer in their own homes. When Albertans step out the front door, I don’t want them wondering what they’ll come back to.

I’m glad that we’re on the right track. Thanks to a strategic $10-million investment, Alberta RCMP are better able to address crime right where it happens. And Crown prosecutors are better able to make sure repeat offenders are caught and put behind bars.

When people ask me about rural crime, we also talk about what won’t work.

Getting angry doesn’t solve anything if there isn’t a plan to work together.

While Jason Kenney and the UCP talk a lot about rural crime, they’re simultaneously threatening cuts to frontline services.

It’s clear that Jason Kenney is more interested in playing politics than working together to find solutions. When it came to taking action on our Rural Crime Strategy, they voted against increasing funding to rural police. Twice.

Anyone who has ever had something stolen knows that it can make you feel helpless.

The emotions can be surprisingly strong. And they stay with you.

Panic. Anger. Frustration. I know what it’s like. There is still work to do. Thefts still happen. And because thieves are opportunists looking for valuable items with fewer eyes watching, rural Alberta still faces higher risks of theft.

But by working together with police and the courts, we are standing up for rural Alberta.

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