Meeting attempts to address crime

Town of High Prairie senior peace officer Alan Bloom had five suggestions for residents to cut the risk of crime.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Ways to combat crime and the reasons so much crime is occurring in the South Peace region were the topics of debate at a town hall style meeting May 29 at the Gordon Buchanan Recreation Centre in High Prairie.

It was generally agreed by most attending the Crime and Policing Open House that the drug trade was fueling crime in the region, with better effort needed to combat the problem.

Sgt. Jason Barber of the High Prairie RCMP attended and said police want to work with the community.

“It’s important to make calls,” he said, adding the more calls reported the easier it is to have more officers placed at the detachment.

He added efforts are being made to form a Rural Crime Watch in Big Lakes County, in addition to the newly-formed Citizens on Patrol in High Prairie.

RCMP shared statistics that crime has decreased, but many in the audience did not believe.

“Personally, I don’t think that’s a reflection of what’s going on,” said High Prairie Councillor Donna Deynaka, who chaired the meeting.

“If people don’t call, they don’t get reflected in the numbers.”

Barber stressed statistics reflect reported files and if people do not call in criminal activity, the statistics will reflect so.

Ann Stewart had an opinion on why people don’t call police.

“Our justice system is so pathetic,” she said.

“Why report it when they’re (accused criminal) out the next day?”

Another woman added she as the victim of three break-ins but she did not report any to police because she felt nothing would done.

High Prairie resident James Ogg suggested a more neighbourly approach would help.

“Getting to know your neighbour and helping each other out,” he suggested.

“That would be a start.”

Amiro’s Steak House owner Barry Sharkawi – himself a victim of a recent theft – agreed residents needed to help each other and praised the RCMP for their efforts.

“The police are doing their job. We will help you!”

He suggested organizing a delegation and visiting the Alberta government to inform them of the problem.

He also suggested Metis Settlements in the region cost-share policing.

“They have to come up with their share,” he said.

Later, he also suggested reviving town council’s protective services committee. When he served on council the committee dealt with crime on a continual basis.

“It was successful,” said Sharkawi.

Residents shared many stories of how they are affected by the drug trade and how they are intimidated by the people involved. One man called the street he lives on “a drug supermarket” which has prompted lower house values and an inability to sell.

“We can’t sell our houses to move. What are we supposed to do?”

High Prairie School Division vice-chair Tamma Henkel, one of two elected trustees who represent High Prairie, expressed problems at school grounds but also had sympathy for law enforcement.

“It’s really hard to be everywhere,” she said.

She added it was not “uncommon” for staff to pick up drug paraphernalia in public school grounds.

“It poses a huge danger for kids,” she said.

Barber said police were willing to visit schools.

“We’re open to coming to the schools if needed.”

“It’s about building a relationship with the kids,” said Henkel.

“Our students are more and more and more at risk. The drug activity on my street (her home) is huge.”

Stewart again said the justice system was the problem.

“The justice system is where two-thirds of the problem is.”

Tammy Kaleta attended the meeting and spoke as a Citizens on Patrol members. She encouraged everyone to consider joining.

“We know the offenders on the streets. When did it become High Prairie’s responsibility to look after these vagrants?” she asked, later citing there were about eight of them.

She asked the Town of High Prairie to consider removing the old log tourist booth by the Golden Age Centre. Vagrants frequent the area causing problems.

“We are the victims of these eight people on the street,” she added.

Town of High Prairie senior peace officer Alan Bloom had five suggestions for residents:

  1. Being a good witness.
  2. Install motion lights in the back yard.
  3. Install alarm systems in your home.
  4. Get a dog.
  5. Consider buying video cameras.

People invited to the meeting but not attending included High Prairie’s sitting Justice S.P. Hinkley, Peace River – Westlock MP Arnold Viersen, Alberta Minister of Justice Mickey Amery, Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair, and Alberta Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Dan Williams.

All members of town council attended except for councillors John Dunn and James Waikle

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One thought on “Meeting attempts to address crime

  1. Sharkawi should do his homework before commenting about Métis Settlements funding the police. They already pay into policing and have been for years!
    Also if you want to talk about the Indigenous communities, at least invite them to the table. I also don’t believe that removing the visitor’s booth will stop crime. People will just find another place to congregate.

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