M.D. of Bonnyville residents got vocal about rural crime and how it affects them at the latest town hall in Ardmore last Wednesday.
Cold Lake and Bonnyville RCMP detachments were on hand, as well as the M.D. of Bonnyville Public Safety, Reeve Greg Sawchuk, MLA David Hanson and Crown Prosecutor from St. Paul Jordan Kerr.
To a crowd of a few dozen, the officials made a brief presentation followed by a Q&A.
Sawchuk said some of the M.D.’s initiatives have worked and a Lakeland force with three RCMP officers to patrol the area should arrive later this year.
He said they’ll continue to push MP Shannon Stubbs’ crime-fighting tactics at the municipal level.
“I made the statement that Shannon Stubbs had made…that the federal government has gone down the road of ‘Hug a Thug’ and a soft on crime approach,” he said.
He added that more town halls like this could be in the offing.
Bonnyville S/Sgt. Sarah Parke said it was a worthwhile meeting with residents and appreciates the increased focus and awareness on crime.
“I think it gave people a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions. A few of them even responded with the fact that the answers that they got were it was information they weren’t aware of before attending the meeting, so they were happy to get that information,” said S/Sgt. Parke.
“There was also some venting from some of the people in attendance and everybody on the panel understands where that’s coming from and we empathize with the cause,” she said.
Cold Lake RCMP reported that calls for service went up by 1000 from 2018 to 2019.
In Bonnyville, Parke said the crime numbers are staying relatively the same.
“It’s just definitely something that’s always at the forefront, as well as should be. We need to be discussing preventative measures as much as we are responsive measures. So to say that it’s escalating, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, but it’s definitely being discussed more consistently.
“Everybody seemed to be on the same page. And there was some acknowledgment that some things might need to change at the higher up levels.”
Crown Prosecutor Jordan Kerr said that St. Paul’s office is consistently the busiest in the province where the six prosecutors oversee roughly 2000 cases a year, compared to 700 a year for those in larger urban centres.
Crime has been a discussion point in Cold Lake as roughly 50 people joined resident Eleanor Evans to push the city for increased safety measures in the community.