WHEREAS there has been a proliferation of crime in rural Alberta over the past several years; and
WHEREAS citizens of rural Alberta are extremely concerned for their personal safety due to escalating levels and severity of property crime; and
WHEREAS the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other police services lack the required resources to respond to and investigate reported rural crimes; and
WHEREAS Alberta’s overburdened court system results in charges laid against perpetrators of rural crime being dismissed; and
WHEREAS residents and businesses of rural Alberta are becoming increasingly frustrated with the shortcomings of our criminal justice system;
THEREFORE, BE lT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) request that the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta develop and implement strategies and initiatives to prevent and combat rural crime, and punish those convicted of committing rural crime in a manner that will maximize deterrence;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA, through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, request the Government of Canada to continue with its review of the criminal justice system and sentencing reforms in a way that gets repeat offenders off the street for longer periods of time.
Rural crime is on the rise in Alberta. This statement is supported by the crime statistics that are kept by every major police agency in the province.
The reasons for this increase are suspected to be a downturn in our economy and the increased use of illegal drugs. The reality is that every rural resident has either had a crime committed against them ortheir property or can refer to a neighbour that has experienced it. What used to be a rare occurrence is now commonplace in rural areas.
While vulnerable individuals are being targeted by criminals- who have identified flaws both in thecriminal justice system and in the capacity of police departments to respond to- they are unable to defend themselves without the risk of facing heavier penalties for protecting their home and families. Law-abiding residents have their hands tied.
Lacombe/Wetaskiwin Member of Parliament, Blaine Calkins recently hosted a series of town hall meetings with residents to discuss rural crime. All of these meetings were fully attended and participants voiced deep concern about both the frequency and increasing severity of rural crime. The full proceedings of these meetings will be presented to Parliament in the future, but the sheer number of attendees and the common themes in the views expressed all pointed to a serious problem with rural crime.
Residents are taking steps that are offered to them. This is evidenced by the resurgence of Rural Crime Watch organizations and Citizens on Patrol groups in most communities as a possible way for residents to deal with this problem. ln addition, many rural municipalities have implemented programs like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to assist their residents.
These actions by citizens are not likely to have much of an effect unless the criminal justice system in Canada takes this problem seriously and deals with offenders in a much more serious and meaningful way. Conversations with police agencies indicate that repeat offenders are committing much of this crime and they are increasingly becoming more concerned with the ability of the system to keep these offenders incarcerated.
Rural Albertans need the other levels of government to stop letting increasingly dangerous and violent offenders off with a “slap on the wrist”. Harsher penalties are needed, especially for criminals who have been proven, repeat offenders, while also giving them the tools they need to reform and rehabilitate from addictions that leads them to this lifestyle. ln addition, the Government of Canada needs to give property owners the ability to protect their home, their families, and their assets in a suitable manner, without the risk of receiving a prison sentence for assault (while the criminal gets away with little or no punishment at all).
Regardless of the reasons for this increase in rural crime, the fact remains that many rural residents do not feel safe in their homes as a result. This is an unacceptable situation in Canada, and we call for both the governments of Alberta and Canada to address this problem. ln 2017, the Government of Canada announced that it was undertaking a broad examination of Canada’s criminal justice system to ensure that it is just, compassionate and fair, while promoting a safe, peaceful and prosperous Canadian society.
Together with our MPs, MLAs, RMA, police officers, and fellow municipalities we can make our voices heard and take every opportunity to lead to a true change of the judicial system that protects the victims while penalizing (and reforming) the criminals.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.