Sturgeon County crime levels down in first quarter

By Morinville News Staff

Sturgeon County – Criminals got off to a slow start in 2012, something the County and police are hoping maintains through the remaining three quarters of the year. Morinville RCMP Staff Sergeant Mac Richards visited County Council Tuesday morning with his quarterly update on policing in the County. Richards reported on the first three months of 2012, a period of time on par or below numbers seen in the same period of 2011.

The lower than 2011 numbers are welcomed, given last year was one of the lowest for crime in the past decade.

During the three-month period, Morinville RCMP received 1,200 calls for service from the County, a number less than a quarter of the 8,726 calls for service to Sturgeon County RCMP responded to in 2011.

Property crimes continue to be a key concern throughout the County as well as the municipalities within. The first quarter saw 12 break-and-enters, four thefts from motor vehicles, 12 thefts over $5,000 and 20 thefts under $5,000. During the quarter there were 46 reports of mischief to property, including graffiti, vandalism and the like.

While numbers are generally down, assaults and drug charges are up from the same quarter in 2011. Richards told councillors there were 12 assault complaints in the first quarter of 2012, compared with only eight in the same quarter of 2011. There were 28 drug calls in the first quarter of 2012, compared to only nine during the same period of 2011. Morinville’s top police officer said he wants to see drug and impaired charges increase this year.

Richards told Council his three policing priorities this year are drugs, visibility and traffic.

Collisions continue to cause concern to the County. January through March saw a total of 128 collisions, seven of which caused injuries. There was one traffic fatality in the first quarter of 2012. Last year saw traffic fatalities at a five-year high with 10 traffic-related deaths.

Richards believes overall traffic safety is a combination of education and enforcement. “One thing that we did implement during last year was dedicated traffic days,” he said, noting there were nine days where members dedicated an entire day to traffic-related matters. “It increased visibility throughout the County. There was some education street side. I think there is a lot of value in it. It’s something I’m going to continue with.”

But the RCMP are not merely looking to be visible on County roads. Richards said they will continue to maintain a presence in the schools with liaison officers and the DARE program. Additionally, RCMP will continue to make a presence at community events.

Policing at events

Richards said his detachment has already begun making plans for additional policing at Boonstock, the annual music festival near Gibbons. “There are some big events that take place in the County that aren’t necessarily County initiated but reflect on the County,” Richards said, adding the additional police will not affect his budget much.

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“The majority of costs are covered through an enhanced policing agreement between the Detachment, Boonstock and the County.” In response to a question from Councillor Ken McGillis, Richards said he anticipates the policing costs for the event to be approximately $30,000.

Councillor Tom Flynn said he was glad to hear festival policing was being discussed early. “In previous years we’ve had to coach them at the last minute,” Flynn said.

Quads a problem

Another area Richards is hoping to take a serious look at this year is the use of ATVs on private land, particularly in and around Gibbons.

Councillor David Kluthe said he welcomed the crack-down on quads. “It’s like a wild, wild west with ATVs in Gibbons,” Kluthe said, adding there have been a lot of complaints about ATVs in farmer’s fields and on other private property. “It’s a big issue in that town.”

Richards said he believed the matter could be dealt with largely through education.

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