The Lacombe Police Service and the the Lacombe Police Commission presented their 2016 report to City council Monday.
Highlights showed there was a 17% increase in property crime, a 29% drop in impaired driving, a 12% drop in drug charges, a 6% drop in break and enters and a 1% increase in crimes against persons.
Among the major increases was a 73% jump in family disputes, said Lorne Blumhagen, chief of the LPS.
“I think that overall, we’re moving in the right direction and we are evolving as an agency. The new building, the radio systems, the dispatch system are all helping us with our level of service to the community,” he said.
“And then you add on more analysis of what is going on in our community, collecting the data, accessing that data and applying it to what we are doing day to day, and deploying our resources – we also know that community engagement is important, and crime prevention is an area of importance,” he said, adding the force is also committed to further public education as well. “It’s a partnership. We need the citizens of Lacombe to be as vigilant and active in crime prevention in their neighbourhoods and watching for suspicious behaviours; being engaged as we (are) in having our members out there patrolling our streets,” he explained.
“We have few resources, so those extra eyes and ears out there are invaluable to what we are doing,” he said.
“Timely reporting of crimes is also important – we are open 24/7, we have dispatchers at the office, so we have the ability to get to a crime in progress – if we know about it. If someone is awake at 3 a.m. we are awake too so feel free to call us. We appreciate getting those calls early instead of waiting for 8 a.m. when the bad guy is gone,” he added.
“Right now is probably the most change our service has seen and part of that is the Commission’s dedication and commitment to ensuring that we are moving forward, and that each member of our service is committed to that as well,” he said. “It’s in our level of training and our ability to investigate different crimes and getting into more specialized areas as well.”
As to the steep climb in family disputes, the report in part attributes that to how those particular crimes are now reported and recorded. Before, there might have been something going on in a home that didn’t maybe lead to violence, but it might have been aggressive behaviour or their may have been drinking involved for example.
Those types of incidents are now often being reported in a category that covers family disputes, said Blumhagen.
Thus the increase in numbers, but some of it also stems from the economic hardships that many are going through as well, the report says.
“We have improved significantly in identifying and reporting in those areas,” he said of the family disputes category.
“We’re not saying those things weren’t going on in the past, we are just saying that we are more attentive to how we are maintaining that data so we can address it properly,” he said.
Other highlights of the report showed that in 2016, the LPS experienced some staffing changes with one police officer resigning for other opportunities.
“Also to fulfill our dispatch commitment to the community we hired four full time dispatchers and three casual positions.”
The 2016 authorized staffing complement for LPS was 18 sworn police officers, seven civilian support staff, three casual civilian support staff and a Community Peace Officer.
“This represents a ‘Police to Population’ ratio of 725 to one, which is approximately 37% lower than the national average of 528 and 24% lower than the Alberta average of 582,” noted the report.
As mentioned, 2016 also brought the completion of the new police facility at 5301 Wolf Creek Drive, the transition to the LPS’s own local dispatch and the implementation of the Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System.
The report also showed that operationally, calls for service increased by 11% in 2016 over 2015 and remain 9% above the past five year average.
“Increases were noted in the areas of property crimes and family disputes which in whole or in part may be attributed to the economic downturn in our province,” reads the report. “In the area of traffic safety overall collisions were reduced by 15%, but regrettably one pedestrian fatality occurred early in 2016 and an increase of 17% was noted in injury collisions.
“Twenty-five per cent of all injury collisions involved pedestrians or cyclists. In the coming year police will focus on reduction, enforcement and education strategies at high collision locations and pedestrian crossings with a goal of not only reducing overall collisions, but reducing injury and fatal collisions.”
The Lacombe Police Service recognizes that effectively solving public and personal safety issues requires a holistic approach involving all necessary partner agencies or groups, said Blumhagen in the report.
“By acknowledging our role as only one part of the solution, LPS continued to increase its engagement with other agencies.”