A joint collaboration known as the Priority Crimes Task Force is helping target habitual offenders, who police say are committing the bulk of recent crimes.
“The vast majority of crime is committed by a small population, but they commit an inordinate amount of crime,” Superintendent Ken Foster, officer in charge of the Red Deer City RCMP detachment said.
“We can see it in our crime-stats. Some will go to jail and all of a sudden certain crime stats stop, then they’re out of jail and they fire back up again.”
The task force is made up of Red Deer RCMP, Sylvan Lake, Innisfail, Ponoka, Blackfalds, Rocky Mountain House and Lacombe Police Services.
With criminals crossing boundaries, said Foster, the task force allows various detachments to work together, gather intelligence and develop strategies to target offenders.
Foster said there’s been an increase in property crimes across the province which he said, are often motivated by drug and alcohol addictions.
“It’s a big community collaborative effort and law enforcement is only one side of it. If you can tackle the cause which is often drug or alcohol addiction, then these crimes will go away, but it’s more than just policing,” Foster explained.
“Jail isn’t the answer, we get that and we work close with other partners around addictions and housing.”
With the economic climate, Foster said it’s created a bit of a perfect storm when it comes to crime.
“You have an economic downturn that’s been very hard on this province and you have a fentanyl crisis that started west and is moving east and we’re not immune to that at all,” Foster explained.
“When you combine all of those things together that causes a significant challenge, we can only work at one file at a time.”
Another area that’s seen an increase is the amount of crimes committed with firearms, said Foster.
“There are a lot of guns in Alberta just by the nature of who we are, plus criminal organizations utilize guns. It’s something we take very seriously and give a significant amount of attention.”
With an increase in certain crimes using advance analytics and the sharing of intelligence between police services and detachments, as well as people like Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team and SCAN, has become even more important, according to Foster.
The recent warrant round-up conducted in December which resulted in 36 arrests and 117 charges, is one way police are monitoring repeat offenders.
“It’s targeting those habitual offenders who have parole or probation releases and conditions that are enforceable, like being in your house during certain times, not drinking, not associating with certain persons and not being high,” Foster said.
Staff Sargent Ken Morrison, who is the detachment commander in Blackfalds, said the work the task force has done has resulted in several successes in the area.
“In February, we took down a group that was working in our area stealing ATV’s, snowmobiles and utility trailers,” Morrison said.
More recently, Morrison explained that with the assistance of the task force they were able to take down a chop-shop near Clive that had been working fairly openly in the area for a significant amount of time.
“We targeted it a few times ourselves and had been successful with obtaining stolen property, but it continued to operate,” said Morrison.
“With the assistance of the unified group we were able to shut it down once and for all to allow the community members to start to enjoy their neighbourhood again.”
Morrison credits the public with becoming more active in helping to curb the problem.
“They’re now starting to notice those strange things, those suspicious vehicles and reporting them,” Morrison said.
“They’re being vocal and going on Facebook and getting it out to everybody and that’s the way we’re going to win this battle.”
Looking forward to 2017, Foster said the task force will continue to build on their successes and while crime is certainly not down, it’s also not increasing as fast as it has been in the past.
“We are continually looking for creative and innovative ways to work with the community to solve crime. We can’t do it alone it takes a community effort and everyone pulling in the same direction.”