Although maybe not discussed as much as roads and water supply, rural crime continues to play a part in the lives of residents in the MD of Pincher Creek.
For Kimberly Hurst, who attended last Thursday’s Coffee With Council, it’s a topic she is very passionate about. A provincial director for Citizens on Patrol, she is active in the local chapter and with another prevention tool, Rural Crime Watch.
So, what is the difference?
“Citizens on Patrol is a much more active role, where we’re out actively patrolling your community,” Hurst explains. “Rural Crime Watch is neighbours keeping an eye on neighbours. Watching for what is and isn’t normal.”
While some might say they never see the RCMP out on patrol where they live, Hurst believes it’s unrealistic, with a large municipality, for police or bylaw officers to be everywhere.
“We need to assist them in taking ownership of communities and our areas and helping where we can,” she says. “For us to ask them to do all of that themselves, it’s not possible.”
Theft in rural areas can range from a vehicle being stolen in the middle of the day, when an owner isn’t home or is preoccupied, to machinery or equipment containing copper being pawned for its value. Hurst feels that’s where the two citizen-led programs show their value.
Although COP or COPS, the acronym for Citizens on Patrol, is traditionally in larger centres like Lethbridge or Calgary, it can be just as beneficial to rural settings, as well. More often than not, it is neighbours watching out for neighbours that bring the best results.
Like RCMP, Hurst feels a lot of the crimes, particularly vehicle thefts, can be prevented with one simple thing: taking your keys with you.
“We need to take ownership and take the keys out of our vehicles,” she emphasizes. “We need to lock our houses. We need to take our garage door remotes and not leave them in the car.”
With more and more garages connected to the home, remotes can be used to get inside the home.
“If a thief gets into your garage, chances are the door that leads into your home isn’t locked. Just simple things you can do to prevent a crime,” she adds.
Along the same lines, on Nov. 30, the RCMP detachment in Pincher Creek is hosting its own town hall discussion on rural crime.
“It’s something we try to do every fall,” Sgt. Ryan Hodge explains. “It’s a way for us to connect with the community. Get some feedback from residents. Hear their concerns.”
Among the items to be shared is what the RCMP are doing to reduce crime. The subject, Hodge agrees, is not unique to our part of the world.
“That’s something that’s normal across the country, across our province,” he says. “
, unfortunately, is a regular occurrence.”
Like Hurst, Hodge believes being vigilant, knowing what’s happening around you, is the best way to fight crime.
“We need people to call us and let us know,” he says. “If it ends up being nothing, that’s OK, but if it ends up being new information that we need or we’ve been waiting for, it can be the difference between solving a file or not.”
In fact, help from the public earlier in the fall resulted in charges against one person in a rash of vehicle thefts, Sgt. Hodge added.
“I would encourage people to take it one step further and join Rural Crime Watch. You get a lot more alerts from us. You get a lot more information and the ability to share more freely with us.”
Next Thursday’s RCMP town hall is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. inside the MD’s council chambers on Herron Street, just off Highway 6.