By Dale Cory
The tough economic times experienced by many residents in Alberta definitely has a negative effect on those people living outside the province’s cities and towns.
Crime is up all over, and the people living in rural communities are noticing a steep increase in theft.
Consider the logistics involved in rural theft. When a farm resident notices something missing from his property, which may be located an hour or two from concentrated areas of population, the RCMP may not be ‘just around the corner’ to assist in catching those people responsible.
“Yes, there’s quite a bit of theft out there these days,” laments Stan Goddard, who chairs the Rural Crime Watch committee in Ponoka. “We’re the eyes and ears for the RCMP.”
Thanks to EnCana, a new system will soon be in place to help RCMP catch those responsible for stealing fuel, machinery and just about anything else which isn’t welded down.
Don Letwinetz of EnCana presented a cheque for $1,100 to Rural Crime Watch Sept. 30. The money will go toward the purchase of a digital fan-out system that will help RCMP catch criminals, and get stolen property back to its rightful owner.
“What we’re buying is called a phone tree system. It’s going to enable us to get a hold of any ratepayers in this section through computer dial-up. Everyone who has bought a membership and is registered will be notified of anything that’s been stolen and to be on the lookout for certain vehicles to help the RCMP,” says George Verheire, Ponoka County councillor for division 3, and a member of the Rural Crime Watch committee. “The old system we had was outdated and couldn’t keep up anymore. This is a new style, and the best.”
Verheire insists thieves will take anything these days, and “If it’s locked, they’ll just break it and go in.”
Ponoka Rural Crime Watch currently has 48 members registered in an area comprising properties west of Ponoka to Secondary Highway 771, and east of Ponoka to Secondary Highway 821. The Crime Watch area mirrors that area that is served by the Ponoka RCMP detachment.
“If you notice theft soon enough, you call the RCMP, and they’ll put a fan out,” continues Verheire. “People are much more alert when they’re on the Rural Crime Watch.”
Goddard also alluded to the importance of all rural residents coming on board to join the Rural Crime Watch.
“It’s important to EnCana to support this fan out system since our operations are located in rural Alberta. It will also assist by contacting our rural neighbours with regard to any unlawful activities happening in our area,” says Letwinetz, community relations advisor with EnCana. “This money will give some assistance with getting the Ponoka Rural Crime Watch back in operation.”
The new fan out system will cost $1,600, meaning the Ponoka Rural Crime Watch committee will still need to raise $500 to get the system up and running.