Since August 2020, Alberta RCMP have offered online reporting for theft and vandalism. While traditional in-person or telephone reporting is still an option, online reporting is a convenient way for people to contact police and get them involved faster.
“From the standpoint of property crime, say like stolen bicycles or items out of a yard, it speeds up the process for the individual reporting it,” says Cpl. Marty Reed of the Pincher Creek detachment.
“Officers often get tied up on other matters, so it can take several hours to a day or two to even respond to the call.”
Online reporting is available 24-7, though it is offered only for items under $5,000 that have been lost or stolen. Victims of vandalism can also submit a report if the cost to repair the damage is less than $5,000. Thefts over $5,000 can be reported only by oil, telecommunications and utility companies.
The online system will only process crimes that were committed within the jurisdiction of Alberta RCMP. Additionally, crimes involving a witness or suspect cannot be reported online, along with thefts involving personal identity, firearms, licence plates or decals.
All online reports will be followed up with a phone call from a police officer within five business days.
Although online reporting is offered only for smaller theft and vandalism crimes, reports submitted to the RCMP online will be investigated the same as any other crime reported any other way. The reports also help police identify where they are needed and provide information that can guide future patrols.
To avoid duplicate files, only victims are able to report crime online. Although there isn’t a way to track a report once submitted, individuals can follow up with their report by calling 1-855-565-7555 or emailing email@example.com and providing the reference number they received when they submitted their online report.
Pincher Creek RCMP are asking for the public’s help in their search for a missing man.
Chris Mezei, 40, was last seen in Pincher Creek on Monday, May 15.
Details are sparse at this point, but Mounties and Mezei’s family are concerned for his well-being, according to Cst. Patrick Lambert.
Mezei is six feet tall, weighs around 175 pounds and has a muscular build.
He is bald and has green eyes, and there is lettering tattooed on his collarbone.
Anyone with relevant information as to Mezei’s possible whereabouts is asked to call the detachment’s non-emergency line at 403-627-6000 without delay.
Anonymous tips are always welcome through Alberta Crimestoppers’ hotline at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or online at P3Tips.com, or through the P3 Tips app, which is available for download through Apple or the Google Play Store.
Shootin’ the Breeze will update this story as more details become available.
Pincher Creek RCMP are asking the public to stay out of the Cottonwood Campground for the next three days, following a copper wire theft that knocked out power to the entire site.
Alberta Parks, which operates the campground near the Oldman River Dam, reported the theft Thursday, May 4, according to Const. Rachel Welsh.
Dave Hagedorn, Alberta Parks chief ranger for southwestern Alberta, said Thursday afternoon that crews will be on-site through the weekend to determine the extent of the damage.
It remains to be seen if the damage will significantly impact the site’s availability this season, he said.
Welsh said copper wire thefts are common in the area, adding that thieves recently targeted wind turbines at a wind farm near Pincher Station.
The campground theft damaged several electrical panels on-site, all of which have to be replaced, she said.
Mounties are actively investigating both wire thefts.
Welsh said the campground theft happened sometime after the campground closed last September.
The campground’s main entrance was then closed to vehicle traffic, but Welsh said Alberta Parks kept another gate open so that parents could access a children’s play area on the campground’s east side. The campground is popular among young families and dog walkers and is easily accessible on foot, she continued.
Anyone who thinks they’ve spotted suspicious activity at or around the campground is asked to phone Pincher Creek RCMP’s non-emergency line at 403-627-6010.
Alberta Crime Stoppers welcomes anonymous tips at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), online at p3tips.com, or through the P3 Tips app, which is available for download through the Apple Store and Google Play.
Speaking to town council March 27, Hodge assured Mayor Don Anderberg that he’d notify town hall if the detachment anticipated a staffing crunch.
“If officers don’t come in from out-of-area, the [Pincher Creek] detachment would have to fill in,” Hodge said, qualifying that it was too soon to tell.
The detachment typically aims to post two Mounties in Waterton Park at all times throughout the summer. Six Mounties were cycled through in pairs last summer, with the detachment occasionally filling in.
“There were definitely periods where we had to supplement [coverage in Waterton] with our own officers, but that was kept to a very minimum level,” Hodge told council.
It’s not hard to attract Mounties who are willing to spend a summer in the park. The challenge, Hodge explained, is freeing up Mounties from their home detachments.
“Provincewide, we’re finding that resource levels are low and it’s tough to get officers released so that they can come down and work for us.”
Mounties from Fort Vermilion and High Prairie have already expressed interest in policing Waterton this summer, according to Hodge. At the same time, the detachment commander said he was in talks with Cardston RCMP about potentially pooling resources.
In the meantime, Hodge said, the detachment was “definitely feeling an impact” in the absence of the town’s former peace officers.
Mounties are being called to respond to complaints about dogs, many of which fall outside the scope of police work.
“We’ll always respond to dog attacks, but we don’t deal with stray dogs or complaints about dogs chasing deer through town. Our officers don’t have the training or the time for that,” Hodge advised council.
“We’re in the process of filling positions for two bylaw officers,” Mayor Anderberg replied. “We don’t have anyone in place right now, but that’s in the works.”
The Town of Pincher Creek is leaving Alberta’s community peace officer program following the departure of its two CPOs starting last October, according to Mayor Don Anderberg.
Municipal bylaws will be enforced by a dedicated bylaw officer as soon as town hall hires a suitable candidate. The town will also hire a full-time bylaw and safety co-ordinator to stay on top of training requirements and enforcement priorities, Lisa Goss, town hall’s head of legislative services, told Shootin’ the Breeze.
Goss said her office is reviewing applications, but qualified that the hiring process will take as long as needed.
Pincher Creek participated in the CPO program for about 10 years, but recent changes to the town’s legislative obligations under the Peace Officer Act spurred council to reassess the program’s value after the former CPOs took jobs outside the municipality, Anderberg explained.
“It was getting a little onerous for us. We’re now focusing back on what we believe to be the core issues around bylaw enforcement,” he told the Breeze last Thursday.
The province runs the program through the Justice Ministry, while municipalities and other eligible agencies hire CPOs and set the limits of their authority, according to the program’s March 2022 policy and procedures manual.
Pincher Creek’s CPOs enforced municipal bylaws and some provincial laws, handling traffic violations through the Traffic Act, according to Anderberg and Goss.
Anderberg said the CPOs’ broader focus sometimes came at the expense of local bylaw enforcement, noting that Pincher Creek RCMP have “really stepped up” local traffic enforcement. The town’s chief administrative officer was meanwhile required to sign off on CPOs’ paperwork as per the Peace Officer Act, which Anderberg said ate up time and resources.
“It was cumbersome [for administration] to manage the program. It certainly took time,” Goss elaborated.
She said town hall recommended transitioning back to bylaw officers after reviewing enforcement strategies taken by the MD, Cowley, Crowsnest Pass, Cowley and Cardston County.
Fort Macleod left the program three years ago, citing the province’s “downloading” of policing costs onto small municipalities starting in 2020, according to a press release on the town’s website.
Crowsnest Pass has stayed in the program, and now employs three CPOs to handle traffic and enforce municipal bylaws, according to a spokesperson for the municipality.
Pincher Creek’s new bylaw officer will have a working relationship with Pincher Creek RCMP.
The town’s former CPOs left separately last October and December, Goss said.
Town council has voted to tear down Pincher Creek’s former RCMP headquarters at 659 Main St.
A previous council funded the project in its 2020 operating budget, but demolition was put on hold when the Government of Alberta asked town hall to use municipal buildings for a Covid-19 testing centre, according to a staff report attached to council’s Feb. 13 agenda.
Budget 2023 includes $200,000 for demolition, meaning the project won’t come at extra costs to taxpayers.
Pincher Creek RCMP left the building when their Hunter Street headquarters opened in 2008. A number of organizations have since rented space, including the McMann Youth Family and Community Services Association and the Pincher Creek food bank.
Speaking at chambers Feb. 13, Mayor Don Anderberg broadly suggested that the building site could be used for housing development.
“This is probably one of the primary places that we could put shovels in the ground rather quickly,” Anderberg told council, noting that the town owns some of the surrounding property.
The building is too far gone to be refurbished, he continued.
Apart from needing a new roof, windows and a ventilation system, the building has “foundation issues” and contains asbestos, the staff report notes.
Council unanimously approved demolition, following a motion by Coun. Brian Wright.
Council has not yet awarded a contract for the project.
Danielle Smith announced last June that she would set the plan in motion if she won the United Conservatives’ leadership campaign, which she did in October.
Premier Smith instructed Ellis in a November mandate letter to “launch an Alberta Police Service” with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
Smith further mandated Ellis, himself a former police officer, to work with local law enforcement and municipal governments to “establish a regional approach to policing in Alberta.”
“There’s no decision that’s been made to establish an Alberta Police Service,” Ellis told Shootin’ the Breeze at a virtual press conference Jan. 24.
The minister said all options are on the table when it comes to curbing rural crime, pointing to Alberta Sheriffs’ success in pulling about 2,220 suspected impaired drivers off provincial highways in the last year and a half.
“The reality is that the RCMP are struggling to meet the needs of Canadians when it comes to policing,” Ellis said, later adding, “The problem is that the RCMP just do not have enough human beings to provide their contracted services.”
Local heads of government disagree — forcefully, in some cases.
“I can’t see how making changes in our provincial policing will have a positive effect on our community,” Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter told the Breeze.
“We’re 100 per cent behind the RCMP,” Reeve Rick Lemire said on behalf of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek.
Town mayor Don Anderberg preferred not to stake a position at all, citing that town council hadn’t deliberated the issue.
Previous councils had expressed concerns about low staffing levels at Pincher Creek RCMP, but Anderberg said the town has always had “a great working relationship” with the detachment.
The Rural Municipalities of Alberta, which represents 69 rural counties and municipalities, including Crowsnest Pass and the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, wrote in a winter 2023 policy statement that “The creation of a provincial police force should not take place unless a detailed feasibility study proves that such an approach will reduce provincial and municipal policing costs and enhance service levels across the province.”
The government’s own findings show that it would cost an estimated $366 million to create an APS and move away from the RCMP. The same report, published by Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2021, concluded that it would cost between $24 million and $49 million less to operate an established APS per year versus the RCMP’s current annual costs, assuming a 20 per cent pay bump in the RCMP’s new collective bargaining agreement with the federal government.
Regional crime is already down considerably across the region, according to the most recent statistics from Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek RCMP. As the Breeze reported in the new year, reported incidents of property crime and so-called persons crime (which accounts for assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, muggings, uttering threats and criminal harrasment) are at five-year lows, according to Pincher Creek RCMP’s Sgt. Ryan Hodge.
Crowsnest Pass RCMP’s Sgt. Rendell Guinchard reported similar drops across both categories over the summer.
Both commanders regularly consult with municipalities in their jurisdictions.
Minister Ellis repeatedly praised members of law enforcement, especially Alberta Mounties.
“As a former police officer, myself, I personally didn’t care what uniform I was wearing,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to make sure that I was providing good service to the people that I was representing.”
Three people have been charged in connection with a weekend break-in at a public works yard in the village of Cowley. A fourth suspect remains at large, according to Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP.
Mounties arrested the trio Monday on Highway 3 near Pincher Station, roughly a day after two men allegedly stole keys and hand tools from the works yard at 518 Railway Ave. in Cowley.
Two Fort Macleod men, aged 50 and 21, are charged with breaking and entering and possession of stolen property.
“There was quite a bit of property recovered,” Hodge said Tuesday.
A third suspect, a 21-year-old woman from Fort Macleod, was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property.
The 50-year-old suspect was in police custody as of Tuesday morning, held on a number of outstanding charges and arrest warrants. The second man was released Tuesday, following a telephone hearing through Pincher Creek provincial court. The female suspect was also released.
Hodge said Mounties are looking for the fourth suspect, another Fort Macleod woman who is believed to have been involved in Sunday’s break-in.
Hodge praised Monday’s arrests as the result of a combined investigation by the Pincher Creek detachment, Taber RCMP and Taber Police Services, Lethbridge Police Services and Fort Macleod RCMP.
“The only way to catch (the suspects) was to co-operate. We’re always co-operating,” Hodge said.
Mounties are investigating an alleged rental fraud after a Pincher Creek homeowner found her home was listed on a rental website without permission.
The homeowner phoned police in early November, after multiple people turned up at her address, wanting to view the property. One hopeful renter reportedly put down a damage deposit through an online money transfer.
Investigators later found at least two other area homes were being advertised on the website without their owners’ permission, according to Const. Brooke Riding, investigating officer at Pincher Creek RCMP.
“We think this has been happening for months prior to that,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze.
Riding declined to name the website, explaining that police don’t believe its operators had been involved. The website has since removed all three suspicious listings, Sgt. Ryan Hodge said.
Riding declined to say if police have identified any suspects, citing the need to protect the detachment’s ongoing investigation.
Rental frauds rely on people’s willingness to send unseen landlords money online, something Riding strongly advises against.
Carefully research a rental property to make sure it’s legitimate, and always insist on viewing a rental before agreeing to send any money, she suggests.
Anyone with knowledge of the alleged fraud is encouraged to call Pincher Creek RCMP’s non-emergency line at 403-627-6010, or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
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Pincher Creek’s town council voted late Monday to defer its vote on a bylaw amendment designed to regulate short-term rentals within town limits.
Monday’s decision at chambers followed a lengthy public hearing that saw around 50 residents and at least one out-of-town investor pile into the gym at town hall, with many speaking for and against the amendment.
If passed, the amendment would put permitting and licensing requirements on upwards of 20 short-term rentals already operating in town through tourist accommodation websites like Airbnb and VRBO, and limiting STRs not lived in by their operators to five per cent of homes per residential street.
No such limit would apply to STRs with live-in operators. Bed-and-breakfast operators would not be allowed to operate STRs on their licenced premises.
Pincher Creek’s current land use bylaw doesn’t mention STRs at all, though in practice, town hall has granted business licences on an ad-hoc basis to operators that have applied, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.
The bylaw was drafted by Steve Harty of the Lethbridge planning commission, Oldman River Regional Services, which Wilgosh said provides planning and development guidance to Pincher Creek and several outlying municipalities.
Reading his council report to start Monday’s hearing, Harty told the audience that the town’s STR industry needs some form of regulation amid growing concerns on the part of operators who want clear expectations from town hall and residents who say STRs are putting pressure on the town’s tight long-term rental and real estate markets. STRs are meanwhile subject to the province’s new tourist levy and the federal GST, Harty added.
Speaking for the amendment, Lane Heggie said he owned and operated a purpose-built STR on the 1000-block of Livingston Way, but doesn’t live in Pincher Creek.
Clear, reasonable regulations would serve the community well, he said, adding that operators should talk frequently with their neighbours to speedily resolve conflicts.
Lynn Brasnett, a longtime area Realtor and former rental property manager, pointedly reminded the audience that shutting out STRs would do little to boost the town’s rental stock.
“We have run a less than one per cent vacancy rate in this town for over 30 years,” she said, insisting that many STR operators would likely have to sell off their investment properties if they couldn’t market their services on Airbnb, or the like.
Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left, and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Jenae Toews, who runs an STR in town with her husband, agreed.
“At this time in our lives, with my husband doing school, we more than likely wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the property as a long-term rental,” she said.
Japhia Epp, a paramedic with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said she and her husband own three long-term rentals and four STRs.
“We get a lot of families that come to Pincher Creek, and some of them say, ‘We would not come here if there wasn’t a place to stay like this.’ ”
Epp went on to say that she and her husband actively promote other local businesses to their Airbnb guests.
Coun. Wayne Oliver then asked Epp how she’d feel about living next to an STR.
“I am a neighbour to a short-term rental in this community,” she replied. “I do know the owners of the house and have regular communication with them. The idea is that, ‘If anything goes wrong, you let me know.’ ”
Speaking against the bylaw, Chantal Laliberte stressed the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.
“If Pincher Creek was a town with plenty of long-term rentals and plenty of affordable housing, I wouldn’t be standing here, talking to you
“Housing is not like any other commodity. It’s not like gold, which is a commodity but is not a human right,” she said, drawing on the UN’s founding text, which enshrines the right to adequate housing.
Joan Brees then took the podium, listing 22 questions and concerns from residents she said weren’t able to attend the hearing. These ranged from the town’s apparent lack of authority to enforce whatever regulations council might approve to noise complaints, parking shortages and safety concerns by worried neighbours.
One resident who spoke to Brees said a vacation home on their block had been rented to 15 people “and kiddos” last summer. Residents don’t want to see “party people” take over their streets, Brees said.
Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP, said Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any 911 complaints specifically related to disturbances or noise complaints at local STRs.
Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said in a written statement to council that he would welcome the amendment’s regulations, noting that a map of active STRs would probably help fire and ambulance crews.
Presiding over council’s meeting at chambers, Mayor Don Anderberg and Coun. Oliver were quick to suggest putting off a final vote.
“Getting this right would be nice, right off the bat,” Anderberg said.
While he was personally in favour of regulating STRs, the mayor cautioned that council needed more time to deliberate.
Coun. Sahra Nodge countered that council should come to a vote, having just taken in “a very respectful, very informative public hearing.”
But the emerging consensus resolved that the amendment needed tightening up, ending in a unanimous vote to revisit the amendment at council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 28.