Glendon and area farmers rallied at Pyrogy Park on Saturday to share their experiences of rural crime, long police response times, and fears and frustrations with the justice system.
Organizer Michael Thompson, who grew up on a family farm near St. Lina, said the problem is only getting worse.
He said he wanted to start a “powerful and positive movement” to tackle the issue.
“We are tired of criminals taking what belongs to us and there not being consequences that prevent them from re-offending,” said Thompson.
“Thieves know that nothing is going to happen to them. I am sure that it is safe to say that everyone here has been affected by rural crime–you know someone who has been robbed, or it has happened to you personally.”
With over a hundred people in attendance, residents went up on stage to share their experiences.
This was one of two rallies at Pyrogy Park over the weekend. On Sunday, family members and mourners called for justice in the deaths of Jacob Sansom and Morris Cardinal, who were killed just north of Glendon in late March.
Signs were hung at the gazebo that said “Taxpayers lives matter” and “Justice for farmers.”
Thompson briefly addressed the situation on Saturday.
“On behalf of every community represented here today, we extend our sincere condolences to the families of Morris Cardinal and Jake Sansom on the loss of their loved ones,” he said.
“Our communities are not full of prejudiced, hateful, racist, or violent people, but we are tired of living in fear.”
Rural crime town halls have been common in the Lakeland in recent years, including when a couple hundred arrived in St. Paul last fall to voice their concerns directly to then Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.
RCMP response times to Glendon and increasing patrols in the area was one issue highlighted in the Bonnyville Detachment’s Community Engagement initiative, completed virtually this summer.
S/Sgt. Sarah Parke said there are various factors that affect response times including where the responding officers are when they receive a call, resources, weather and road conditions, and what issue they are dealing with at the moment they have a call.
“For example, if they are at the scene of a person’s crime such as an assault, or a domestic violence situation, they may not be able to leave that call right away to attend a complaint of property crime,” said Sgt. Parke in a written statement.
Thompson agrees that police resources are being exhausted.
He hopes victims of rural crime will continue to be vocal.
“I believe that all levels of government need to know how bad things have gotten for the farmers and community members. Our police need more resources so they can respond effectively when we call them.
“Our justice system must start taking rural crime seriously and deliver appropriate sentences to those committing the crimes.”