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Bail reform desperately needed in Canada: Abela

Posted on March 1, 2023 by Taber Times

By Trevor Busch

Taber Times

Analysis of monthly police statistics raised concerns among members of the Taber Municipal Police Commission regarding a recent troubling uptick in incidents of property crime.

The January Crime Trend Analysis, as part of Chief Graham Abela’s report to the commission at their Feb. 15 meeting, showed seven cases of theft under $5,000 in January 2023 by comparison to only three in January 2022.

“I’m concerned at the number of… theft under $5,000, or break and enters, to mainly sheds and garages that are currently occurring in the community, are up significantly,” said Abela. “We have a small number of individuals committing those offences. Unfortunately that’s usually what happens, a small number of individuals commit numerous offences and impact the community. I’m concerned about that, and we’re taking steps to address that.”

The commission suggested that some of these incidents did not occur overnight or when such crimes might be expected to more regularly occur, but during the day.

“It’s fairly brazen,” said Abela. “We’ve been following foot tracks in the snow that have been going to multiple different locations.”

Police organizations and justice watchdogs across Canada have been sounding a warning about the consequences of a loosely enforced catch-and-release bail system which has been allowed to take shape in recent years, and the Taber Police Service is no exception.  

“I could go on a huge tirade around the catch-and-release system that’s currently happening with bail in Canada, and the fact that it’s really handcuffing the police’s hand in protecting public safety associated to individuals committing crimes,” said Abela. “Albeit theft under, breaking into garages, which are – on a continuum of stuff – not extremely high. But whenever anyone has their home entered, or their property damaged, or theft occur, it brings a sense of vulnerability to them. They’re victimized. And it takes a long time for an individual to get that trust back.”

Hearkening back to the “no call too small” philosophy of the TPS, Abela stated the service does its best to address these types of property crimes.

“I consider these offences to be quite serious to be honest with you. They’re really hard to solve – there’s not a lot of physical evidence, and it’s usually a stranger offence. But our officers are diligently working as we speak, and attempting to try to curb this. I just hope the courts do their job, and the JPs on bail do their job, to make sure that we can keep these people that are re-offending from victimizing others.”

TMPC chair John MacDonald joined Abela in advocating for change on the bail front.

“Bail reform is serious, and it has to be addressed at the highest levels. It’s frustrating for all police forces to deal with, and it’s just the way it is right now.” 

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