In the continuous and seemingly longer and longer list of trying to find ways to fight rural crime, the Municipal District of Taber has set down a strong foundation with their Regional Enforcement Services (RES).
The program first started as a community peace officer program but has been expanding to include other programs including the Range Patrol program which has seen its debut in the last several weeks.
Now is the program perfect? Of course not, but it’s going to take plenty of work to get this rural crime wave under control, much more than the several months they’ve been working on RES.
The flagship of the program is of course the community peace officer program which is comprised of three former RCMP officers.
With only three members, though, that leaves a lot of area in the M.D. uncovered at points.
That’s where the Range Patrol program comes in, to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the community in order to relay information to both the peace officers and the RCMP at large.
The real benefits of the program have already been seen throughout the several communities in the M.D. as the two roving peace officers have made contact with the various schools and organizations to great reviews.
Just having visible officers in these rural communities can be a big deal, especially in the Low German Mennonite communities, as that has been a real goal of the program.
Having CPO Henry Peters and CPO Dana Butler visible in those communities has opened up the dialogue between law enforcement and the LGM population, due in part to CPO Peters who has been described as a ‘rockstar in those communities’ by the third member of RES, Kirk Hughes.
Now the program is largely a supplement to the local RCMP detachment as they have teamed up to run check stops throughout the M.D. especially throughout the 2017 holiday season.
As the two continue to team up, they have also been busy attending numerous rural crime open houses throughout the region.
The most recent coming in February which was hosted by MP Martin Shields with Little Bow MLA Dave Schneider and Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter also in attendance.
The meetings also had M.D. councillors, Town of Taber councillors, Town of Vauxhall councillors and members from the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP detachment present in order to have discussion on what they want in law enforcement in the local areas.
Both MLAs have been vocal in their push for better education for the community and the need for reinforcements to the rural area’s law enforcement.
UCP leader Jason Kenney has also been adamant in his views that rural crime is a serious problem, so much so that the UCP launched a task force earlier this year.
But in a move that has some scratching their heads, the UCP have voted against $37 million in funding to the RCMP that would go towards salaries and additional support for rural RCMP officers.
With the UCP’s constant talking about the need for more rural crime enforcement, this doesn’t exactly send out a message they are all in when it comes to expanding RCMP detachments.
Kenney has said his number one priority is “reigniting Alberta’s economy” so that obviously plays a part but at the same time it’s hard to believe they are truly in favour of reducing crime if they aren’t willing to at least put some money into rural RCMP.
With an election coming in spring 2019 there will certainly be more talk of what needs to be done in addressing rural crime.
The good news for M.D. citizens, though, is the peace officers are likely to be around for the long haul and as the program learns and expands, things can only get better.