Categories: Business

St. Albert launches Citizens’ Academy

Amandine Reid, assistant manager at Candy Boutique, says she wanted to attend the Citizens' Academy to better protect the business. On Aug. 24 she stands in the candy store while keeping a close eye on shoppers.

The best way to stop a criminal is to think like a criminal.

That was the message residents heard last week while participating in a new pilot project spearheaded by the RCMP. The project, targeted at the downtown business district, is aimed at reducing crime among small businesses.

“We wanted to get that education piece out there to understand safety, self awareness and crime prevention strategies and techniques,” said Const. Patrick Lambert of the St. Albert RCMP.

Once a week for the next three weeks participants will learn different ways to protect their businesses.

Wednesday’s first session targeted environmental design. Owners were told that blocking viewers from looking directly inside, setting up security cameras and keeping an eye on shoppers could go a long way in decreasing crime.

“My intent with this is not to build fortresses around our business, but it is the intent to have us being mindful of our environment,” he says. “We have a strong desire to stop these criminals from victimizing those small businesses and the community members.”

Brian Lesky, in attendance representing Cerulean Boutique, sat in on the meeting. The clothing store has been broken into twice in the past and has since added extra security, like bars on their windows, to prevent further crime.

During the meeting Lesky said even if you have all the right measures in place, professional criminals will still find a way.

“No matter what you do, if they want to get in, they’re getting in,” he said.

Each time they were broken into, Lesky watched the thieves back their truck up into the business and hastily load up the back of the vehicle before driving away. He said both break-ins happened in less than three minutes.

Cpl. Laurel Kading, said it’s rare to encounter highly organized criminals and implementing even small changes will go a long way in protecting businesses.

“Those weren’t typical criminals, they knew what they were doing,” she said.

Overall crime might seem like it’s been increasing downtown, but Lambert said the numbers suggest otherwise.

He said the pilot project was directed at the downtown core to increase relationships between the detachment and the community.

“We want the business community to see and hear our response, not just the reactive response to a call,” he said.

Amandine Ried, the assistant manager at Candy Boutique, was one of the three businesses in attendance that night. Representing the candy store, she says she wanted to learn how to stop crime at the doorstep.

“There are a lot of teenagers who come in that we don’t see take things, but we suspect that they have,” she says.

While the last break-in occurred before she started working at the boutique eight years ago, she says they still experience petty theft throughout the day.

“After today’s session there are things that we will probably implement more, like watching people closely. We do go around and ask people questions and we’re a friendly business.”

She says over the next week she will be rotating attendance with two owners of the candy store.

Kading says the RCMP wanted to start the academy as a way to enrich relationships with the community.

Once the pilot project is complete she says they’ll gather feedback from the participants. The next step is unrolling the 12-week Citizens’ Academy, which will have more of a recruiting focus.

While the pilot project is free, there will potentially be a cost to participate in the full program.

Kading said it’s not too late for those wanting to participate in the pilot project. The next session is slated to take place tonight at 6 p.m. at The Collective. For more information call Const. Patrick Lambert at 780-399-2746.

Dayla Lahring: Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.