RCMP are confirming what many have been saying all along – crime is up in parts of rural Saskatchewan.
According to police, property crime rates have jumped 18 per cent over the past six years in the central part of the province.
In terms of RCMP coverage, it’s an area that runs north to south, from Kindersley to the Onion Lake detachment, and east to west from Alberta to the Manitoba border.
“We are listening to rural Saskatchewan. We hear that we need to get more visible in certain areas of the province. Response times could be better,” Curtis Zablocki, the RCMP ‘F’ Division commanding officer, told Gormley Friday.
Public outcry on response times led RCMP to initiate a review into Saskatchewan staffing levels in December 2016.
At the time, RCMP attributed the shortages to vacancies caused by parental leave, sick leave or members away on training.
“This review resulted in identification in a number of positions that can be better utilized at the front line,” Zablocki said.
“One of the first things we’re doing here is doubling the size of our relief team by adding five positions.”
He said adding those five positions will enhance the flexibility and responsiveness in the RCMP’s ability to address staffing shortages.
“We haven’t decided officially where this new batch of five relief team will be based out of, but we will decide that in the near future,” Zablocki said.
The commanding officer told 650 CKOM the results of the review will be used internally to assess staffing priorities.
RCMP to target repeat offenders
As for why property crime appears to be spiking in the middle of the province, Zablocki said he can only speculate.
“It may be related to the economic downturn and perhaps an increase in illegal drug activity,” he said.
“We’re seeing an increase in methamphetamine, a very highly-addictive drug. Increased seizures of cocaine and increased prevalence of fire arms of violence and firearms as well.”
The commanding officer noted the RCMP has initiated crime reduction strategies across the province, including the central area.
Zablocki said intelligence-based efforts have help officers determine where to patrol and where to focus enforcement.
“It allows us to identify trends and patterns which can often lead to apprehending repeat or prolific offenders,” Zablocki added. “When we’re talking property crime, we’re almost always dealing with repeat offenders.”
He said addressing these issues has to be done in a collaborative approach.
“Crime is not a police issue alone, it’s a community issue. It’s often about homelessness, unemployment, addictions, it’s about poverty and mental health.”
Overall, property crime in the other two districts – north and south – was down over the past six years.