A rise in property-related crime is the top issue facing Ponoka County residents and local police are working on tackling the issue.
Ponoka RCMP detachment commander Mike Numan gave his quarterly presentation to Ponoka County council at its meeting on Feb. 14 and highlighted a number of statistics along with some recent trends and what the detachment is doing to help combat some of the criminal activity going on in the county.
Numan explained that property crimes — such as break and enters, vehicle theft and offences related to thefts — are all up over the past two years and have been consistently increasing, though that’s a trend that has been occurring across the province.
“Ponoka County is no different than anywhere else. There has been a really big jump in thefts and traffic offences have remained pretty consistent as well,” he told council.
“To illustrate, property crime in our central Alberta district has seen the largest increase, up 25 per cent in 2016 over the previous year.”
Comparison statistics Numan provided show the number of break and enters in the county were fairly steady in 2012 and 2013 at about 20, but began to rise in 2014 with 35 then have hit 53 and 51 in the last two years. Vehicle theft numbers show a similar increase, with 20 to 23 annually from 2012 to 2014 with 40 in each of 2015 and 2016.
While large thefts, over $5,000, remain low (in the five to eight range annually), two categories that hit at the heart of residents have skyrocketed. Theft under $5,000 has gone from 25 in 2012 to 73 last year, while mischief and vandalism of property went from 35 in 2014 to 95 and 91 instances in the past two years. To go along with that, possession of stolen property has risen from 10 in 2012 to 44 and 37 in 2015 and 2016.
While some of the blame can be placed on the economic situations people have been facing for some time, Numan believes there is also another explanation.
“With the loss of higher paying jobs and the resulting income drop, many people out there have developed habits that need to be fed and if it isn’t dealt with, one can speculate that those people have to get that money from somewhere,” he said.
“There is a huge chemical dependence out there and it’s not getting better with drugs like fentanyl in the mix.”
Numan did add that the resurrection of the rural crime watch and citizens on patrol committees are beginning to help, but put out a reminder for people not to become their own vigilante.
“These types of offences are all crimes of opportunity and residents need to be more proactive to help prevent it by locking their doors, not leaving keys in vehicles or leaving them running,” he stated.
“People also need to watch out for each other and continue calling police when they notice suspicious activity. However, what we don’t want is for people to take matters into their own hands.”
One other crime Numan hopes people will get better at recognizing and simply ‘hang up’ on what is the continuing trend of telephone and Internet fraud. The numbers for that kind of crime have steadily increased from four in 2012 to between 16 and 21 over the last four years.
“It’s been slowly increasing and we are seeing it a lot more as social media and the Internet grows. The problem is people continue to fall for it,” he said.
“I am encouraged to see our members getting out more into the rural areas and will continue to encourage our members to see different regions of our detachment area. While I would like more members, the province indicates there is no more money so we continue to do what we can with what we have.”
As for the rest of the crime statistics, Numan mentioned that assaults remain a concern despite staying steady around 24 as well as the number of provincial offence tickets dished out at around 100 for the last two years, a hike of about 30 per cent.
Numan’s meeting with Ponoka town council will be featured in next week’s edition.