by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
Sergeant Dale Kendall, Morinville’s new RCMP Detachment Commander, has presented policing statistics to Council for the year up until July. The report details crime statistics and priorities for the local detachment, which has broadly shown a decrease in incidents over the last decade as national and provincial crime statistics trend downwards.
Some bright spots in the report show that every category of crime in the report: persons crime, property crime and other types of crime, have all decreased since last year for the period from January through July. The numbers are down approximately 15 per cent across the board, from 458 incidents down to 392. This is despite Morinville’s typical population growth and a recent rash of break and enters to vehicles that occurred in August, not reflected in the report.
Crime rates are still slightly higher than in 2015 during the same period, however, which had 375 incidents, the lowest on record for the last five years. 2016 saw a sizable bump in crime rates, at the time Morinville’s detachment commander felt the crime increase was due to the declining economy, which has recovered relative to a year ago.
Notably, Kendall reported that the RCMP did not respond to any Motor Vehicle Collisions that resulted in injury throughout the three-month period, down from three for the same time last year.
Kendall also detailed the priorities and changes in her department, describing her detachments ongoing challenges due to hard and soft vacancies leaving her understaffed by five service members.
Additionally, she noted the department’s focus on community policing and engagement, sharing with Council that the detachment now has a dedicated media spokesperson to respond to major news events.
The department is generally in a period of organizational transition according to Kendall, shifting its focus on providing more proactive police patrolling and service by utilizing more dedicated administrative employees to allow officers to spend more time on patrol. Part of this transition involves transitioning from a four watch system to a three watch system, allowing more patrol time.
Kendall also mentioned that the RCMP would be stepping away from their participation in the DARE educational program, an initiative which seeks to educate children about the dangers of illegal drugs, in the interest of pursuing more general school engagement duties.
Councillor Nicole Boutestein probed Kendall for more information on what this would mean for the future of the DARE program, and if community Peace Officers would be stepping in to fill the void.
Morinville’s David Schaefer, Director of Corporate Operations, said that local peace officers did not have current plans to take over in the absence of the RCMP, but that he could investigate the matter with his officers, schedule permitting, and work with teachers and school contacts.
The new commander did not say everything was perfect in Town, however, noting in response to questions from Councillor Stephen Dafoe that many residents have complained about increased property crime (primarily thefts from vehicles). Kendall reminded residents that all crimes need to be reported, and reports from residents help the police know where suspects are active, helping them know where to dedicate resources. Kendall also commented saying “85 per cent of thefts can be prevented by doing something simple, lock up your valuables”.
Kendall extended an invitation to Council to come for a ride along whenever they have the time during the remainder of their few months in office.