Ponoka RCMP are looking at a few factors this year to tackle crime in the community.
Acting Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley spoke to council April 24 during the regular meeting about those initiatives and on the RCMP Annual Performance Plan (APP), something that the detachment uses every year as a focus.
“Overall the statistics in 2017, most of the categories went down from 2016.”
“We actually had a decrease of 27 per cent (135 survey files in 2017 compared to 185 in 2016) in spousal abuse,” said Smiley.
Despite some of these drops, property crimes in the last five years have increased. Some of the issues RCMP face is in having to deal with repeat offenders.
While the police have no say in who stays in court or is on recognizance for a crime, they can monitor individuals, said Smiley. “We have gone to great efforts in tracking these people.”
The purpose of this initiative is about deterring crime and criminal activity, and in some cases individuals get tired of the police attention and leave the community. There is also a habitual offender program that individuals can sign up for to try and change their life style.
“Ideally people change their habits…other times we’ll see people through enforcement get incarcerated.”
Other areas of focus
This year RCMP are looking at how they handle prisoners in cells, plus dealing with victims of sexual assaults.
There were two sexual assault investigations in 2017 compared to seven in 2016.
“We’re looking at our practice with those files,” said Smiley, adding that there’s been some criticism of the RCMP methods in these types of investigations.
Another thing that keeps RCMP busy is dealing with missing persons files. Some of that has to do with patients coming to and from the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury.
On top of that, RCMP handle various calls related to mental health concerns.
Coun. Kevin Ferguson asked about concerns of property crime that residents have questioned him on. “Is it the economy?” he asked.
Smiley said municipal and rural property crimes show they are a little higher in town. But rural break and enters are higher than in town. A bad year for that was in 2015 but Smiley was reluctant to say that the economy is the only factor.
“Personally I see addiction as being a bigger problem,” said Smiley.
These individuals tend to have education gaps and other issues where they end up with challenges with drug addictions that feed the crime.
In Alberta, the province saw property crime increase by four percent from 2016 to 2017. Along with that, motor vehicle thefts increased by 19 per cent and possession of stolen goods files increased by 28 per cent.
Ponoka County saw break and enter files increase to 83, up from 51 in 2016. Motor vehicle thefts also increased to 54, from 39. The Town of Ponoka saw 40 break and enter files in 2017, down from 68 in 2016. Motor vehicle thefts went up to 66, compared to 51 in 2016 for the town.
Another part of the APP is employee and member wellness, explained Smiley. The goal is to ensure Mounties have a healthy mental health.
It’s an area of focus that RCMP are working on ensuring police have a way to manage stress.