From cities to small towns, convenience stores to bars, central Alberta has been shaken the past couple of weeks by a number of armed robberies.
Sure, crimes of this nature have been occurring for as long as anyone can remember. Why do you think the RCMP were created years before Alberta became a province?
However, the recent rash of robberies in Ponoka, Rimbey and Blackfalds — too mention just a few — coming in such a short period of time is something that hasn’t been witnessed in the region for a quite some time.
So far, police have not been able to identify any of the suspects or figure out if any of the crimes were committed by the same individuals. That also means they haven’t been able to figure out a motive behind these incidences.
While one could likely infer the robberies may stem from some involvement in the rampant drug trade in the province, and the subsequent need of addicts for money to feed their habit, it’s also extremely logical — and quite plausible — that the crimes could be a symptom of just how desperate some have become given the economic state in Alberta.
For much of the past 18 months, the province has been dealing low oil prices, record-setting unemployment and job losses, companies going bankrupt along with increases in the price of food, housing and numerous other daily used goods and services.
Now, a vast majority of people have taken the hit to their livelihood and the lowering of the type of lifestyle they are accustomed to in stride, through the use of local food banks, working a variety of jobs outside their normal sector and cutting back on the things they could no longer afford like large vehicle loan payments and expensive vacations.
Unfortunately, for those that were near the bottom of the barrel or on the precipice of the economic cliff when the pipeline started to dry up, sometimes the situation can become so dire that the instinct to simply survive sometimes overtakes clear and reasonable thinking. That is also often true for those that can’t bare to lose what they believe is a valuable lifestyle or an addiction that has taken far too great of a hold.
And the time of year may also be a factor, with the holiday expenses and other bills possibly piling up to create even more desperation.
Although, none of this is an excuse for such violent and reprehensible criminal behaviour, especially given the number and nature of the robberies.
Fortunately, none of the employees at any of the businesses hit have been injured, the only casualty has been the money from the register.
That said though, the incidents have taken a toll on businesses and on the emotional well-being of the people that are working in those industries as well as the people that need the minimum wage, part time jobs that make up most of the service and retail workforce.
Identifying, capturing and convicting those responsible is paramount, but far from the ultimate answer to the problem. Figuring out why and addressing the issues behind it — be it substance abuse or economic circumstances — would go a long way to lessening the number, but doing that would take the will of society as a whole and the political system to change.
So for now, the public has to rely on an imperfect justice system and the will of the criminals to want to reform themselves or for the economy to turn things around.
But that is…just an observation.