By Tim Kalinowski
South East Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association (SEARCWA) held its AGM at the Cypress County offices in Dunmore last Thursday evening. About a dozen members showed up for the meeting, an admittedly poor turnout considering there 190 names listed on the organization’s contact list.
It was determined by the members present that perhaps a factor in this less-than-stellar attendance is the organization needs to do more to promote itself, and the work it does in the area, in more public formats.
Cst. Jeffery Waites of the Redcliff RCMP detachment, who works in many of the rural areas of Cypress County, then gave his report. The RCMP works closely with SEARCWA and contacts members when in need of information about potential crimes. Cst. Waites was pleased to report that so far the recent downturn in the local economy has not led to substantially higher instances of crimes in rural areas of the county.
“Our crime rates are remaining the same,” said Waites. “I would not be willing to say, at all, that crime is going to increase because of our unemployed oil and gas employees. Because it is not them doing the crimes. It’s still the same demographic of people we’re catching doing these crimes as always.”
Waites went on to report that he has even noticed a drop in domestic complaints recently, usually another statistic which goes up when people are facing economic hardship.
“Knock on wood,” said Waites. “I think people are realizing it’s cheaper to not fight right now and let’s get through this together. We have also noticed there are less people in the bars, which I think is a good thing.”
According to Waites, there is one major area of concern. The RCMP is recording more violations of the Fish and Wildlife Protection Acts; in particular, more incidents involving domestic livestock.
“We have had some instances of shooting cows,” confirmed Waites. “Gutting them. Loading them up… This was quite prevalent north of Jenner; there were several being shot. I myself have only found one down by Seven Persons. For people who don’t know this: If you lose livestock during hunting season there is some money available from the government for that.”
While he hasn’t noticed any uptick in crime in recent months, Cst. Waites said it’s important to remain vigilant in rural areas. Across the province the RCMP is registering an increase in the number of transient criminals coming into rural areas and engaging in thefts and frauds.
“At this time of year, you have to keep a close eye on your property. If you live in town and have acreages, check them a little more often.”
South East Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association president Des Grant said he was happy to hear the crime rate was staying level for the time-being in Cypress County, but felt it was only a matter of time before rate increases, already being registered by other rural crime watch associations he is in touch with, arrive here. He asked Cst. Waites and the public to continue to keep a close eye in the coming months.
“That being said, there is a lot of (crime) activity out in the rural areas in the province. We are very fortunate down here in Medicine Hat and Cypress County not to have that yet. Because it is coming,” said Grant.