OPINION: Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron orr

Rural Crime is still a major concern in Central Alberta

After midnight, Tuesday, Sept 18, Ponoka RCMP arrested two men in a stolen vehicle.

They laid 98 charges – 98. These alleged repeat criminals, of no fixed address, out on bail, in contravention of court orders prowling after midnight, with 9 firearms. (Ponoka News Sept. 19, 2018)

Why are such men released to thieve and traumatize respectable/unsuspecting citizens? This is not justice. Alberta, home to 11 per cent of Canada’s population, accounted for 21 per cent of our nation’s rural crime last year.

It’s not surprising that more crime takes place in rural Alberta than in urban areas. In fact, the crime rate is a startling 38 per cent higher.

For a long time, the UCP urged the Alberta government to implement in-depth and long-term solutions to address this epidemic. The NDP approach has been sadly lacking so we chose to develop our own rural crime strategy.

Official Opposition Leader Jason Kenney established a Rural Crime Task Force. Our MLAs met with citizens who highlighted a dangerous shift that saw criminals realize they could easily prey upon rural vulnerabilities. The sheer scale, as well as the escalating brazenness and violence of the crimes, have overwhelmed police and communities.

This complex crisis needs a comprehensive plan. To prepare the groundwork for our response, we gathered data on criminal activities and trends, and looked at the ability of police to respond to them. We also investigated a justice system that has become backlogged and ineffective.

And we reviewed government services available to the expanding number of victims of crime. The result of this work is a sweeping report that addresses the depth and breadth of Alberta’s rural crime crisis, and offers concrete solutions to make our communities safe again.

These solutions don’t simply involve filling a few already-vacant RCMP and Crown prosecutor positions. They are designed to create a seamless, coordinated system of policing that will teach criminals that rural Alberta is not their playground. The UCP report also offers clear recommendations for putting a halt to the revolving door that lets high-risk criminals continue terrorizing communities, often days after they’ve been arrested.

Addressing court backlogs is a crucial part of this initiative. Far too many seasoned criminals have become emboldened because they can bank on slipping through an overburdened system. Solid provisions for victims of crime, public awareness and crime prevention initiatives are a few of the many other solutions we are considering.

We also want to ensure victims do not become targets of a justice system that should focus on criminals, not residents caught up in dangerous situations that are not of their own making. The only way to provide Albertans with the peace of mind they deserve is with a well-rounded response to this complex crisis.

To read the entire report and serious recommendations please go here: http://www.ucpcaucus.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Rural-Crime-Report-FINAL.pdf

If you have any questions or concerns with this or any issue, feel free to contact my constituency office at 403 782 7725 or e-mail at Lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca or 101, 4892 46 Street, Lacombe, AB T4L 2B4.

-Submitted by Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr

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