With dangerous criminal activity such as armed robberies in the central Alberta region increasing, Ponoka RCMP investigators are working on a task force made up of several detachments.
There are no borders to crime, stated RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Numan to town council recently. He presented quarterly results of the town’s crime statistics and what has been found with the economic downturn is the risky ways of making money.
“People are desperate and they’re doing whatever it takes to get money,” said Numan.
Ponoka recently saw an armed robbery and while that seems extreme for the small town, Red Deer is seeing this type of dangerous criminal activity on a weekly basis. Much of this activity is believed to be by a small handful of the same people. Numan says Red Deer is heading the task force, which includes several communities in the area.
Taking a look at the last five years from 2012 to 2016 numbers show a steady increase in crime.
“What really jumps out at me, and it’s not really this detachment area, I think it’s everybody in Alberta and in other provinces, are the amount of property crimes,” said Numan.
Another area he sees a jump in are in assaults at 192 for 2016 compared to 138 for 2012. Both 2016 and 2015 show a large amount of assaults, which can be attributed to a change in reporting at the RCMP level. “We have a zero tolerance for assaults in the last few years and it’s not really our discretion to charge or not, it’s a mandatory thing through the Solicitor General.”
Those cases are left to the courts to deal with, said Numan.
Criminal harassment, crimes such as unwanted contact or cyber harassment fall under this category, have seen some increases with 66 in 2016 compared to 48 in 2012. Of those years, 2014 saw the least criminal harassment reports at 26.
Where things ramp up is in the property crimes; these crimes include incidents such as fraud, mischief to property, theft over or under $5,000, theft of motor vehicles or possession of stolen goods. These property crimes actually dropped a bit in 2016 to 785 compared to the previous year of 834, however, in 2012 property crimes sat at 553.
The biggest number of incidents of property crimes in 2016 fell under mischief to property at 318 and theft under $5,000 at 259.
The upward trend in crimes started in 2015 when the economy dropped. For January this year, Numan said there was a drop in these property crimes compared to January 2016. “Hopefully that trend continues and people are maybe starting to go back to work.”
Other crimes such as sexual assaults continue with 10 reported in 2016, down by three from the previous year. In 2012 there were five sexual assaults reported. Weapons offenses were relatively fewer compared to previous years with 19 reported. That’s a drop of 17 compared to 2015 and a drop of four compared to 2014.
Where the RCMP get really busy is in missing persons files. “It’s a high priority file for us but a lot of them are repetitive,” said Numan.
In 2016 Ponoka RCMP handled 169 missing persons reports, up 22 from 2015 and just over double that from 2014. “Each one takes a whole bunch of different investigative steps.”
Operationally things are looking positive for the Ponoka detachment. Numan says there is a full roster of Mounties as well Sgt. Chris Smiley has just started. Smiley takes on the operational side of the detachment, which will help the two corporals get on the road. A plainclothes investigator is now in operation in the county, thanks to Ponoka County funding a three year position, who is now working with a second investigator in town, added Numan.
Drug dependencies are also an issue and with overdoses in the province from the drug fentanyl, the RCMP are working on raising awareness of its dangers. Ponoka Victim Services is hosting a fentanyl information night set for March 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Kinsmen Community Centre.