By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The idea of a bunch of rural residents sitting in secluded areas of Sturgeon County with binoculars in hand looking for crooks and criminals is not what Sturgeon Rural Crime watch is all about, at least not entirely. While the group, founded in 1983, still has as its main mission the goal of making Sturgeon County a safer community by increasing and strengthening crime prevention activities, a large part of the organization is simply keeping people informed about crime going on in their area and how to prevent or reduce it.
Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch President Roger Nykipilo made a presentation to the 2012 RCMP Citizen’s Academy Jan. 30, outlining just what the organization does, who they are partnered with in their fight against crime, and how Sturgeon County and non-County residents can join the efforts.
For Nykipilo and his members, crime prevention is really about community connection. “I’m finding sometimes we’re disconnected as a community,” Nykipilo said, adding that disconnect can allow crime to flourish in a neighbourhood or community. “This cannot be allowed to happen. Crime is costing our communities millions each year.”
Despite recent news reports showing crime is down in the County and in the country overall, Nykipilo said crime is still occurring regularly in Sturgeon County with typical criminal activities including break and enters, mail theft, vandalism and the occasional illegal use of fire arms, all activities people can keep an eye and ear on, and all activities they can become aware of by becoming a member of Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch.
The organization believes awareness is a key in reducing crime, and that is a matter of each person becoming aware of who should and should not be in a neighbourhood. “Being a good neighbour is the most cost-effective measure we have,” Nykipilo said.
At one time Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch had some 900 members. That number has dwindled down to approximately 735 members today, many former members leaving due to retirement. Nykipilo said membership is now open to both Sturgeon County residents and those who live in the towns and hamlets within the county. Cost of a lifetime membership is $20 and covers the member’s spouse as well.
But while membership is not prohibitive in price, it is also not prohibitive in the amount of knowledge available to members. Nykipilo explained the organization keeps members aware of what is happening in the region in terms of criminal activities through an auto-dialer system that sends out phone messages to members. Recently Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch began sending those alerts (fan outs as they call them) by e-mail.
In addition to receiving regular information of interest to public safety and to keep residents informed, membership includes a wealth of brochures and pamphlets on safety, auto theft and other crime prevention knowledge. Members also receive a Sturgeon Rural Crime Watch sign to use on their property. Nykipilo said some insurance companies offer a rate reduction for insurers who are members of a crime watch group.
Those interested in becoming a member can obtain the application form online at sturgeonruralcrimewatch.org. The completed form can be dropped off at the Morinville RCMP Detachment. The group meets every other Tuesday at the Provincial Building in Morinville. Attendance at meetings is not a condition of membership, but all meetings are open to members and the general public.