A rural crime watch group in Saskatchewan is using a tool from the 21st century to help lower the crime rate.
The RM of Edenwold introduced a cross-platform messaging app called What’s App to its rural crime watch group about three years ago. The app allows the RM to create a private group in which only its members can see the messages and photos being shared.
“With the app if you have somebody come knocking at your door or something else that might look suspicious you know — snap a picture of the vehicle,” said councillor Tim Brodt with the RM of Edenwold.
“(That way) you have a copy of their license plate or if you hear of something that’s happening in your area, (the group has) that picture as a backup.”
Brodt said the app not only offers a faster form of communication between neighbours but includes members from the local RCMP detachment as well.
He said it’s also great because the messaging system can be used on the Internet as well, for people who don’t have smartphones.
As a councillor, Brodt said he can also send the group updates from his monthly meeting with the RCMP.
The topics covered will often include reports on how many speeding tickets were handed out or how many break-ins there have been.
“People really enjoy getting that kind of information because they see the RCMP are doing something out there,” Brodt said.
Brodt noted there are still people who prefer the ‘old fashioned way’ of being notified about suspicious activity through the phone tree. But he added because the app is more instant many are signing up to be part of it, including more than 90 people as of this month.
Everything from personal reports of stolen gas, batteries, and farm supplies to suspicious activity and RCMP updates can be found in the private group.
“If somebody posts something that we don’t agree with, we (RM councillors) are the administrators, we can take it off and if they continue posting, we can ban them if we choose — it’s not going to be an open forum that way. We don’t want to get into legalities of problems that can arise.”
Brodt said a provincial What’s App group is already in the works. He has hopes that in the next few months it will take off with more RM’s joining.
“What we would like to do is to have one or two representatives from each one of the rural crime watches in Saskatchewan to be in the group,” he said. “That way we can find out what’s happening across Saskatchewan. If a joining RM has some problems that they’re getting broken into and stuff, then we could all be getting a heads up for it. So then it might be something we can all look out for and have everybody watching for it.”
RCMP officer praises efforts in RM of Edenwold
Cpl. Mel Zurevinsky is part of the crime prevention and crime reduction section within the RCMP. He applauds the RM for their work within the rural crime watch and for being helpful to other RMs who are looking to set up the app.
Zurevinsky said he feels the reason people like the app is mainly because it allows them to report instantly.
“Maybe someone wouldn’t have reported 50 gallons of fuel being taken or batteries but this (app) just gives them a quicker way of reporting those little things and identifying trends or what the criminal element is doing in your neighbourhood,” Zurevinsky said.
He added if a person wants to remain completely anonymous they still have Crime Stoppers as a resource.