Northern Sunrise, Town of PR partner on rural crime pilot project

Study addresses issue

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

The Town of Peace River and Northern Sunrise County are taking part in a pilot program to address rural crime.

“Peace River was asked to participate in the Alberta Rural Crime Prevention Framework,” says Town of Peace River CAO Chris Parker. “It’s just to look at how crime happens in the rural areas and how people perceive that crime.”

The two-year project that the municipalities have been asked to take part in includes questionnaires for the community, followed by developing a plan to address crime.

The questionnaire gives baseline data to see how safe people feel in the community. The baseline data can then be compared to future data to see if crime and perceptions of safety have changed.

Parker says the communities are already working on the problem of crime through the 12-member Community Advisory Committee [CAC] with the RCMP. The committee will do the work of gathering the data.

“The commitment is a little bit of time and a very miniscule membership fee of $513 a year,” Parker says.

The membership fee is to join the Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention, which has received a grant to run the project.

Northern Sunrise County Councillor Corinna Williams says she wanted the pilot project to see how rural crime differs from other areas.

“This initially came about through the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association [ACCPA] board, and I requested Peace River be one of the pilot sites. The other option was Beaverlodge, and I was able to push Peace River forward stating that we never get anything like this this far up north. Usually everything centres around Calgary, Edmonton, and Grande Prairie so it was great that we were able to push that through,” Williams says.

Williams also requested Northern Sunrise be part of the project.

Williams and Parker presented a report on rural crime created by the Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention to both municipal councils as well as the information on the pilot project.

Northern Sunrise County Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba says she finds parts of the report hard to accept, such as statements that some farmers have considered giving up farming due to rural crime, and that crimes are committed by friends and neighbours.

“Both those statements are appalling. I’ve never heard of anything like that. Any farmer that would give up their property or quit and give up farming because they got a wrench stolen – this is not reality,” Kolebaba says.

“Part of this issue here is the lack of education between Edmonton, Calgary, and rural,” says Williams.

“This is where the education piece comes in where we can change the conversation of Edmonton Calgary perceived crime to true rural crime.”

“That’s why we would like to do something that is more local and ensure we get our point of view across,” Parker adds.

Williams says the first step is asset mapping in the area. Williams says the communities already have a lot of resources, but there is a lack of communication and education about what’s available. There is also no baseline data yet.

Once the baseline data is gathered through outreach, a plan will be developed to address crime in the area with measurable goals and objectives.

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