By Scott Schmidt
Alberta Newspaper Group
While most people glance back on a previous year searching for memorable highlights, then look to the coming calendar with hope for bigger and more exciting things ahead, it’s a little different for police officers.
If it can’t be boring, you can at least hope for typical.
The Redcliff RCMP detachment, which also handles all calls for Cypress County, enjoyed a typical year. Typical doesn’t suggest zero issues and concerns to address regarding crime, but it does show there isn’t a huge uptake that people should worry about.
The Redcliff detachment took 1,318 total calls in 2018 within the town, and another 2,879 for the county. The one detachment handles calls for both the town and county, but they are counted separately to provide accurate statistical analysis of crime in the region.
“Those numbers seem pretty normal to me,” says Sgt. Sean Maxwell. “This past year, in the last few months we’ve had e-ticketing implemented. Every time we write a ticket now … each of those exists as a file, which is different than when we wrote them out by hand.”
Prior to the new system all tickets of a specific category for one month would be put under one file, whereas e-ticketing counts everything separately.
“It can look like we’re padding the stats a little bit, but it’s a different way of counting.”
As with most technological advancements, e-ticketing makes things faster at every stage. Not only should it increase traffic-stop efficiency but it will also allow people to take care of tickets sooner.
“Once we’ve done everything up and submitted it, that ticket is on file … and you can actually go and pay that ticket half an hour later.”
One of the biggest issues for police in any region is domestic violence, and the Redcliff RCMP is no different. Being victimized in one’s own home means reporting those crimes can turn entire worlds upside down.
“We do see a number of domestic files throughout the year, which is something that always concerns us,” Maxwell says. “I wouldn’t say we’re seeing a large increase in it but I would estimate that on a regular basis we probably get a weekly call for domestic or family violence in one form or another.
“It’s certainly something that’s prevalent throughout our area.”
Residents of Redcliff and Cypress County have access to the same victim services as those in Medicine Hat, and recent years have seen some significant improvements in support. Those additional services — additions and improvements at the women’s shelter, victim assistance programs in conjunction with city police, etc. — are resulting in a safer environment for victims to come forward.
“I think people are feeling safer in general because when it comes to domestic violence, it’s more out there in the public domain as something unacceptable. We’ve been working in communities to reduce domestic violence and getting the word out there that this is something people do not have to accept in their relationships.”
Drugs are another issue police have to keep constant attention toward. Street drugs are more dangerous than ever before, causing so many recent overdose deaths in people under the age of 40 that the life expectancy for Canadians actually fell in 2018 for the first time in history. The overwhelming majority of those deaths are coming from fentanyl, and while not yet a crisis for Redcliff RCMP, it’s starting to trickle in.
“We definitely had some drug seizures and charges throughout the year,” Maxwell says. “It’s only recently that we’ve been seeing some fentanyl in our area, and that’s only the last couple months. It’s not that it didn’t exist here but we are just now starting to see more of it.
“We don’t have the same issues as a larger centre would necessarily.”
Drunk drivers had best beware heading into 2019, as a new nationwide has given police more authority in administering roadside tests. Now, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been stopped for, blowing into a breathalyzer is a must.
“I know our overall number of tests are up, but from our perspective so far, it’s not quite the same as, say, a municipal force would have. Just dealing with the volume, we don’t have the same numbers.”
Maxwell says the initial plan is to have anyone pulled over at a traffic stop be administered the roadside test, though he did say he understands that the likelihood of someone being impaired behind the wheel at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday is not quite the same as Friday at midnight. The idea of the legislation is to take the profiling criteria out of an officer’s hands, thereby ensuring that no one impaired slips past a traffic stop simply because they ‘seemed’ fine.
“The members are testing (automatically), as long as they have the (equipment with them), that’s the biggest thing,” Maxwell said. “What we are finding is, if done right, it should add only a minute to a vehicle stop. You can get the results in seconds, especially if the person is blowing zero, because the device doesn’t have to do any work.”
Looking ahead to 2019, Maxwell says the detachment plans to focus on educating youth, directing them toward positive things in life. By going into schools and communities to work with kids, it allows police to prevent issues down the road.
“The younger we can get people on the right path, the better chance they’ll turn out not committing crimes when they’re older, and that’s certainly recognized by police everywhere.”