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Fort Macleod serving notice on criminals

Bryan Mucha
Bryan Mucha

Fort Macleod is keen to combat crime in the community.

Members of a virtual town hall meeting on crime last week urged residents to be active and patient.

“It is a very slow process,” Town of Fort Macleod chief administrative officer Sue Keenan said. “I implore you for your patience. We are working on a lot of things right now with regard to this initiative, but please be patient.”

Taking part in the virtual town hall on behalf of the Town of Fort Macleod were Keenan, director of community and protective services Liisa Gillingham and by-law officer Wesley Noble.

Also on the panel were RCMP Sgt. Bryan Mucha, Paul Lankin, a criminal intelligence specialist with the Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Team, and Glen Stuart of SCAN (Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods).

Eighty-seven people participated in an on-line survey prior to the virtual town hall.

“We were thrilled with that level of response,” Keenan said.

Through the survey people had the chance to submit questions on crime and by-law matters.

The answers shaped the information presented during the virtual town hall.

Mucha said his detachment covers Fort Macleod and the MD of Willow Creek with a mandate that includes federal statutes, Criminal Code investigations, provincial statues and some municipal by-laws.

The RCMP’s priorities are set through public consultation, trends and public and police safety.

“There has been an increase in Fort Macleod in methamphetamine and opioid drug use and drug trafficking over the past two to three years,” Mucha said. “This has resulted in higher volumes of property-related crime.”

Mucha listed break-and-enter, theft of goods with a value under $5,000, theft of motor vehicles, theft from motor vehicles and mischief to property as areas where there has been an increase.

Mucha addressed the RCMP’s mandate and under which parameters it operates.

“Essentially I just want to let the public know here that we do operate under a certain set of guidelines,” Mucha said, listing the Charter of Rights, Criminal Code, search and seizure laws, and the Privacy Act.

The RCMP’s work is also dictated by its available resources.

“I just wanted to let people know that although we do have a lot of authority, we don’t have the power to do everything for everybody,” Mucha said. “But we are trying and we are working on new plans and new ways to become involved and to help deal with some of the issues that are ongoing.”

Mucha said reviewing the survey responses confirmed for the RCMP what issues are in Fort Macleod and will help set new priorities.

“These issues lead to questions about personal safety in the community as well as personal property and further lead to questions about what we can do to protect ourselves and our property,” Mucha said.

Mucha said some of the answers come down to what is reasonable.

“There is no set, fixed answer as to how we can deal with these crimes going on in our community,” Mucha said.

However, there are crime prevention initiatives in which the RCMP are engaged.

That includes collaborating with the public as well as other enforcement agencies through Fort Macleod’s new Safe Communities Task Force.

“It’s a huge group of organizations and people that are working to try and repair some of the damage that’s been done,” Mucha said.

Other RCMP initiatives include increased patrols to crime “hot spots,” increased education and awareness and on-line crime mapping.

The RCMP is also developing a system in which people can report crime through an on-line portal, rather than having to call 911.

Keenan talked about the new Fort Macleod Safe Communities Task Force, which has had one meeting since it was founded.

“It very much is a collaborative approach to how we are going to ensure that we are keeping our neighbourhoods and residents safe and our businesses free from crime,” Keenan said.

The committee has representation from the RCMP,  SCAN, Alberta Health Services, Town of Fort Macleod, council, building codes inspectors, the Crime Prevention Advisory Committee, FCSS and by-law enforcement.

“Collaboratively, we think we can get a handle on the situation here in the Town of Fort Macleod within this next year,” Keenan said.

Keenan understands the frustration of residents and business owners that it often seems criminals have more rights than victims.

However, she discouraged people from attempting to take the law in their own hands.

“We will continue to be strong advocates for getting the ministry of justice to address the revolving door within our justice system which keeps putting some of our chronic criminals and law-breakers continuously back on the streets after 24 hours,” Keenan said.

Keenan said due to limited resources, Fort Macleod and its partners won’t solve the problem without help.

“I’m imploring all levels of government to be involved in moving this agenda forward so that our residents continue to feel safe in this community,” Keenan said.

Keenan said Wednesday’s town hall will likely be the first of many.

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