Crime in St. Albert trending down
Prevention programs paying off: City
By: Amy Crofts
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 14, 2013 06:00 am
On a late summer morning, Cst. Geoff McKay gets ready for a shift on the road.
He starts up the engine of his electronic patrol vehicle (EPV) – also known as the RCMP’s official golf cart – turns up the song “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker on his iPod and starts off for Bellerose High School.
“You can’t be in a bad mood listening to him,” he says.
McKay is a school resource officer and a member of the community placement team with the St. Albert RCMP. On any given day he can be found delivering talks on drug and substance abuse at schools or riding up and down walking paths and sidewalks, striking up conversations with passersby.
Having a strong police presence, as well as one that engages with the community, is just one of the factors the City of St. Albert has attributed to the downward crime trend over the past three years.
Crime statistics show that Criminal Code offences – including property crime, robbery, impaired driving and drug violations – in 2012 were down 19.5 per cent compared to 2011. This represents 13 fewer crimes per 1,000 residents than the year before.
Similarly, statistics released by Statistics Canada show a downward trend in Criminal Code violations across Alberta and Canada.
Insp. Kevin Murray, detachment commander for the St. Albert RCMP, said the numbers are encouraging, but the reduction in Criminal Code violations is just one indicator of the relative health of the community.
“What is more telling for us is the crime severity index which weights all the different types of Criminal Code offences,” he said, explaining the index measures the seriousness of the offence based on sentences handed down by the courts. Murder is given a greater weight than theft from vehicle, for example.
Fortunately in St. Albert, he noted, the same downward trend is seen. Crimes against people, which are more significant to a community, are less prevalent than property offences.
“Yes, we may have some higher property crime – mischief and theft from vehicles – but when it comes to the persons crime, we are significantly lower.”
But theft, vandalism, mischief as well as impaired driving related offences are still on the RCMP’s radar, which is where the six officers on the community placement team come in.
Aside from working with programs such as Family and Community Support Service’s Neighbourhood Development, 40 Developmental Assets, youth programs and block parties, officers also walk, cycle and drive city streets to get in touch with St. Albertans.
After complaints of noise and youth partying arose along the paths of the Red Willow Trail system around the community of Braeside in 2009, RCMP made the EPV a permanent addition to the fleet of police cruisers.
The cart is a first for RCMP in the Edmonton region.
McKay has been driving it for the past two years, from spring thaw until winter freeze.
As he weaves the cart in between the various teen cliques outside Bellerose, some students offer a smile and a wave while others are apathetic. He catches up with the athletes and asks what teams they’re on this year and dishes out advice to the incoming high school freshmen.
For McKay, his job is less about giving out warnings and tickets than it is about connecting with people.
“It’s building relationships, people being comfortable with you and being able to tell you things,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”