Improvements to the way crimes are investigated along with better crime prevention were the big topics of the presentation by Ponoka RCMP to Ponoka County council in the latest meeting of the latter.
Sergeant Martin Girard, who is holding down the fort at the Ponoka Detachment until the new staff sgt. arrives, gave the RCMP’s six-month update to council during their regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 5 with a particular focus on how the detachment has worked hard to reduce criminal activity in the region as well as increase the number of crimes they are able to solve.
Girard provided to council with the example of the 193 charges recently laid against five people allegedly involved in numerous thefts and other property crimes, which included the recovery of more than $25,000 in stolen property, as just one project that shows how well things are going.
“With the help of our plain clothes general investigation section (GIS) unit, which currently has one member and a temporary NCO (non-commissioned officer) seconded to oversee the unit, we were able to undertake projects like the one that was able to make arrests in the thefts from mailboxes which also led to several other crimes being solved,” explained Girard, adding that the unit has laid another 50 charges in other investigations over the last couple of months.
“We had hoped to see what benefit this unit would have and the bottom line is that it is thanks to this unit that we were able to solve these crimes. There is a time to be visible, time to use the other tools we have, and I think the results speak for themselves. This unit takes some of the pressure off our uniformed members,” Sgt. Girard said.
Down the road, he explained, the hope is to expand the detachment’s GIS unit because of the success they are having, they just simply need the expertise to be able to do it.
“We are hoping to be able to add a new GIS member in the future as the unit reduces the workload of our general duty members by working on major case investigations, drug enforcement, targeted community issues and prevention through the Habitual Offender Management (HOM) program,” he said.
Girard added that through HOM, which targets individuals identified as repeat or problem offenders in the community in a proactive/preventative policing approach, there have been several arrests made for breaching conditions and other offences.
“This is a great tool for keeping an eye on these individuals and giving us the ability to handle these types of issues, and the pressure even forced one person to leave the area,” he stated.
As part of that discussion, Ponoka County chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth added the county is continuing to look into use of the enhanced RCMP position they are currently funding in Rimbey, and may still bow out of its contract when it expires at the end of 2016, unless the county can determine there is a greater benefit that can be derived such as what the Ponoka detachment has been able to do.
“With the increase in development of subdivisions in the region, having this unit and not necessarily have to take officers off the streets to help prevent or solve crimes is good,” Cutforth said.
“However, the fact they won’t be as visible might not satisfy residents, but it is timely that we can explain there are other options to posting a patrol car by a mailbox. If the funds the county provides for an enhanced position could be go to the right places, then that could free up other officers’ time.”
However, according to the experiences Girard has had in smaller detachments like Rimbey, the chances of them being able to provide the kind of work Ponoka detachment is doing is slim due to the number of members, for a detachment is based on the population it serves and Ponoka has reached a level where it becomes both physically and financially viable.