By Stan Ashbee
Alberta Newspaper Group
More members are needed for the South East Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association, according to board member and County of Forty Mile Coun. Chantel Timmons. The association is an all-volunteer, community-based service organization working in partnership with the Redcliff and Bow Island RCMP. Its focus is simple — a safer rural community.
According to the association, while rural areas have less crime than their urban counterparts, they also have more crime than they did in the past. “It is up to the neighbours and family members to be ever-vigilant about what happens a few miles down the road,” it was stated on the association’s website. The goal of the association is to increase and strengthen crime prevention activities in Cypress County, County of Forty Mile and its municipalities through broad citizen participation.
On June 17 in Seven Persons, a general member meeting will be held. “They try to have four meetings in a year,” Timmons noted, with an Annual General Meeting in the fall.
“We try to find some speakers and things pertinent to rural crime or preventing rural crime or things of that nature to tell people how you can protect your property or what you can do in the event you’re a victim of rural crime — what steps need to be taken and things like that,” she explained.
At the same time, she said, rural residents can come to the meeting this month, even if they’re not yet a member. Memberships, she added, can be purchased at the door. “It’s a lifetime membership. It costs $25 for a household. You get your rural crime watch signage and then you become a member on the fanout database, so you get the information of maybe something happening in your area,” she said.
“It would be nice to see some more people sign up because I know we certainly do not have everybody in rural Forty Mile signed up. It would be really nice to have, at each meeting, a few more members,” said Timmons.
When the county did its first initial membership drive last spring, she said, there was a horrible blizzard and residents couldn’t get down to the inaugural meeting. “It was really bad timing to try and get some members because no one wanted to go out in the snow storm.”
Those interested in joining the association can also stop by the RCMP detachments in Bow Island or Foremost to fill out a membership application or at the County of Forty Mile office or membership applications can be printed off of the website and dropped off.
According to Timmons, the county needs to do more of a push in Forty Mile to get more residents involved and to become members. “I think we need to do a bit of canvassing or hold some more town hall meetings and things like that to maybe generate a little more interest.”
If something is happening in rural Cypress County or in the County of Forty Mile, she noted, a direct message from the RCMP comes through to the association and its members. “That information is spread across south eastern Alberta in a matter of moments. I feel it’s a huge asset to have if something is happening or we need to get the word out to people. We just need more eyes and ears, as members,” she said.
Many other communities in Alberta have local neighbourhood watches or citizens on patrol type initiatives, which are different. Those groups often keep an eye out for criminal activity and report any issues to local law enforcement, whereas, the rural crime watch association is a database to disperse information and raise awareness to members.
“In rural Alberta, we’re all neighbours. You want your property protected and you want your neighbour’s property protected and you don’t want to see any of the trouble that can find its way out to the rural communities,” Timmons said.
Information can also be found about the association and any alerts on its website or Facebook page. “Something that directly affects members within Cypress or Forty Mile only,” she said.
If there is information that can be shared coming down from the overall Alberta rural crime watch than that information is also shared, according to Timmons. “It keeps members up to date in our area and what affects them.”