Vol. 80, No. 3News notes

Police cars parked along highway in rural area.

Units target rural crime

Four regional crime reduction teams have been created in Alberta to tackle the growing problem of rural crime. Credit: RCMP

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The RCMP in Alberta has created four regional teams to tackle the growing problem of rural crime. And a major element of its mandate is to develop and maintain partnerships with agencies that can help offenders end their law-breaking cycle.

RCMP Supt. John Bennett says over the last five years, property crime in rural areas has increased 20 per cent. That includes thefts and break and enters on homes, farms and industrial companies. He says it would be tough to speculate on causes, but the country's opioid crisis and Alberta's economic downturn are often cited as underlying factors.

As a result, Bennett has been building a strategy for the four teams, which earlier this year received $8 million from the Government of Alberta.

Known as Rural Crime-Reduction Units, Bennett says one of the team's mandates is to work with organizations such as Indigenous groups, health and mental health providers, addictions workers, probation and parole officials, housing workers and others to help offenders change their lives.

"There are so many agencies out there that can help people," he says. "So let's see what we can do to get that person who's been arrested into addictions counselling for example, and hopefully reduce the cycle of crime."

However, to get those people some help, first they have to be caught.

"If you look at the areas we police, we're a very large area," says Insp. Greg Towler, who's responsible for the western region. "It's impossible for us to have police in every community and honestly, that's no secret to the criminals. They're sophisticated enough to exploit that."

To counter that reality, each of the four teams will have its own analyst who can work with officers to achieve the unit's other goals, which include identifying crime hotspots and using intelligence that will ultimately lead to targeted enforcement against prolific offenders.

"That's part of the team structure," says Towler. "Working with dedicated analysts who can co-ordinate, provide info on people to target, and deploy our resources to apprehend criminals."

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