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Wednesday , 21 October 2020

Telephone town hall sees residents engage with RCMP on crime

Some St. Paul residents are getting frustrated with the crime prevention strategies being pushed by the town and RCMP in an effort to reduce property crime.

While most comments and questions at last Thursday’s telephone town hall were positive suggestions, one resident said she shouldn’t have to use these precautions.

“[I’m] quite fed up that I have to continually lock up my property. Make sure light’s on my yard and make sure that everything is safe outside…I shouldn’t have to. I live in a small town.”

She expressed frustration with the judicial system and the pattern behaviour of the same offenders committing the crimes “over and over again.”

Mayor Maureen Miller said she empathized and remembered growing up in a time when doors were left unlocked.

“That time has gone. And we’re really trying to secure our community so that that we don’t make our community accessible and easy for those who actually commit those crimes.

“I feel for you. I’m sorry that you don’t feel safe in the community. I know that we’ve got many people out, trying to protect our community, but this is not just you or me. This is a community that needs to pull together. And we have to now be diligent. And it’s not specific to St. Paul. It’s not specific to Alberta. It’s not specific to Canada. This is this is a nationwide situation.”

Miller said the town does take its concerns about justice to the provincial and federal governments at every opportunity.

“Unfortunately, I think within the province and Canada, that this all kind of got out of hand, before they actually realized that there were going to be these kinds of consequences.

“But until that happens, we actually need to take care of each other and all contribute to taking care of the community,” said Miller, referring to the impact of mental health and addictions in the community.

Why do complaints get sent to Edmonton before St. Paul?

Another caller asked about response time and why calls to the St. Paul RCMP complaint line are routed through Edmonton.

“It goes to trained dispatchers that know how to deal with victims of crime, know how to ascertain the information that’s going to be needed for us to respond appropriately and effectively,” said Sgt. David Graham.

He said when the call goes to Edmonton, the dispatcher there sends all of the information to the computers in the patrol vehicles in St. Paul and dispatches it over the radio.

“If you’re calling the detachment, they do not have the ability to send information into our cars, the member has to probably pull over somewhere get his notebook and record that information. This way it ends up on their computer, they’re not having to write information down. If we have an address where a crime is going it actually populates in our in our online map in the vehicle, which I can see. And then I can go directly there.”

Crime prevention through environmental design

Half of the participants in the telephone town hall had not heard of crime prevention through environmental design.

“Strategies rely upon the ability to try and deter offenders from entering or accessing property. The principles of design effect elements of a built up environment ranging from small scale to the overarching encouraging entire neighborhoods and communities to be you know, the eyes on the street. Best way to describe it is you’re trying to design a crime defensible space,” said Trevor Kotowich, the director of protective services for the Town of St. Paul.

He said one of the Town’s peace officers had done training in crime prevention and planned to kick off a program in the spring which was then delayed by COVID-19.

“But our office is available at all times. If anybody in the commercial districts, or downtown areas or residential areas, if they’re looking for any more information or if they would like one of the peace officers to attend their property to get some suggestions; we’re here we’re a service to the community and we’re eager to utilize the knowledge and skills that we’ve obtained through this training,” said Kotowich.

Surveillance registry

A poll of the people who attended the town hall revealed 57 per cent of callers have a security or surveillance system on their property, but 75 per cent of those who have a security system do not have it registered with the RCMP.

“We don’t necessarily need to catch a crime on video,” said Sgt. David Graham of the St. Paul RCMP.

“But if we know a crime has happened and we’ve gotten surveillance video from a doorbell or another camera in the area, we may be able to pick up those suspects, and then track them through other cameras through town.”

He said if they’re able to track someone through town using surveillance video, eventually that person ends up somewhere where their face is visible or where they use a credit or debit card.

“I know our local criminals, we’re really good at identifying them when we get good pictures of them,” said Graham.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.