Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer continued his cross-Alberta trek when he stopped in Lacombe to discuss the ongoing issue of rural crime.
Schweitzer said rural crime was one of the major issues repeatedly brought up during the Alberta election cycle and the government is now currently working on implementing their campaign promises. The minister’s current tour is to make sure Albertans are being heard and consulted on before policy is implemented.
UCP policy will be implemented quickly in order to help fix a justice system that Schweitzer says Albertans have lost confidence in.
“They feel police will be able to catch a perpetrator but they are worried repeat offenders will be right back out on the street,” he said.
To combat this breach of trust in the system, Schweitzer said the government will tackle the problem from multiple angles including an additional $50 million for ALERT; $20 million in funding for the expansion of drug treatment courts to rural areas, which have had success in Calgary and Edmonton; and the hiring of 50 new crown prosecutors to ensure cases are not dropped due to Jordan violations.
Schweitzer said all these promises will be fully funded, despite economic worries outlined by the MacKinnon panel. Schweitzer said his ministry will also work to find funding efficiency outside their promised funding.
”The premier has been crystal-clear that we are going to fund our campaign commitments,” he said.
Schweitzer also commented on rural residents who feel they need to protect themselves due to the ongoing targeting of rural residences. Schweitzer said restoring confidence will go a long way to helping rural Albertans feel safe.
“Our democracy is founded on public safety. We need to make sure that we do everything in the capacity of the Government of Alberta to make sure people feel safe,” he said.
Schweitzer also said that the government has written a letter in support of MP Blaine Calkins private members bill, which would see an amendment to the criminal code in terms of sentencing criminals who intentionally have targeted rural residences.
Schweitzer recognized that crime does not exist solely as a justice system issue and pointed to the successful implementation of drug courts in Calgary and Edmonton as a way ministries can work together.
“The only reason why it has had success is that it has had housing on the table and you have social services at the table to provide those wraparound services,” he said.
Schweitzer said it is important for citizens to continue to report crimes because even if justice isn’t fully served in every instance — the statistics allow for the case to be made in Edmonton for additional resources.
“There are things like the crime severity index that helps guide policy,” he said.
Schweitzer also praised Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr as a strong advocate on the provincial crime committee.
Orr said it is important for people to remain hopeful and pointed to a recent improvement in crime statistics.
“We are moving in the right direction and will continue to do that,” Orr said.
He is also reminded residents in the riding to continue to work with law enforcement to help prevent crime.
“There are so many people that don’t want to get involved, but this is something we have to work together on,” he said.