It was an emotionally-charged town hall on rural crime on Tuesday night at Lincoln Hall in Lacombe County, the second of three this week hosted by Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins.
Once again, the suggestion that citizens be given more legal leeway in using force to protect personal property, was a popular one amongst the roughly 200 people in attendance.
Calkins spoke about changing those laws to restore what he called “natural justice.”
“I certainly do not want people to get caught up in the judicial system themselves through good intentions of protecting themselves, their neighbours or protecting their property, getting in more trouble than the criminals in the first place. Maybe we need to look at the laws to make sure that those kinds of things don’t happen going forward,” Calkins told reporters after the meeting.
RCMP members on hand to answer questions said that while the law allows people to use necessary force when they fear for their lives, police do not advise citizens to engage criminals, that it’s dangerous and that policing should be left to professionals.
Insp. Peter Tewfik, the central Alberta district operations officer said people doing so have been shot at and that high-speed pursuits endanger the public. He added that many criminals can be unpredictable, irrational or armed.
Many who spoke, said they were victims of crime and felt let down by the justice system and by police response times. There were calls to bring back the death penalty throughout the evening.
“People are upset. They’re angry, they’re frustrated and the amount of crime that’s happening, especially property crime, which sometimes leads to violent crime, is up severalfold than it was a couple years ago. They’re looking for some help,” Calkins said.
Sgt. Whitney Benoit, the operations NCO at the Blackfalds RCMP detachment invited people unhappy with their service to contact them directly.
“We’re dealing with crime reduction strategies, looking at what we can do to focus on those prolific offenders who are out there committing the majority of the crimes,” Benoit said.
“The only way we can deal with it is through a team approach. That involves the community, making the phone calls, getting us the information that we can follow up on.”
One man in attendance took aim at judges, saying they “have no balls.” He also lashed out at the prime minister, referring to him with a gay slur.
The man said he had once been held up at gunpoint and Calkins said it was the man’s frustration and helplessness that he needed to convey when he called it a “great message to bring back to Ottawa.”
“The sentiment behind it was what I needed to take to Ottawa, not a personal attack on an individual, that’s for sure,” he said. “The frustration, the anger and how people are taking matters into their own hands when they shouldn’t have to.”