By Colin Piquette, MLA
People should be safe and secure in their own homes. They should be able to leave for work during the day with the expectation that their hard-won possessions will still be there when they return. For too many of us in rural areas this is not always the case and this is a problem that needs addressing.
I’ve seen and heard the impact crime has on my constituents firsthand, both in my old job as an insurance agent and in my current role as an MLA. From Thorhild County to the MD of Opportunity, from Athabasca to Bon Accord, rural crime is a serious concern. My colleagues and I have heard from rural Albertans in every corner of this province who are also concerned about rural crime. And we have been listening.
But, more importantly, we are also taking action.
Six months ago, we announced $10-million in funding for an action plan to combat rural crime. This seven-part plan was developed in close cooperation with the RCMP. We asked them what tools they needed to work more effectively and strategically, and we have provided them.
Today, I’m proud to tell you that our plan is already working. According to the latest RCMP crime statistics, in rural detachments, property crimes (excluding mischief and fraud) have decreased 25 per cent in July 2018 compared to July 2017.
Comparing July 2017 to July of this year, there have been 366 fewer break and enters, 648 fewer vehicle thefts and 2,358 fewer thefts in RCMP jurisdictions across Alberta. Those aren’t just numbers, those are real people who are sleeping more soundly, and families who can feel safer than they did a year ago.
This is important and measurable progress, but we are not done yet. Work is ongoing to implement other key elements of our rural crime strategy, because all Albertans deserve to live in safe and secure communities, no matter where they call home. While RCMP have recorded a noticeable decrease in property crime across this province, we know that not all communities are seeing this difference quite yet. There are still crime hot spots and we are committed to working alongside our law enforcement partners to continue to tackle rural crime in these areas, and across the province.
To Jason Kenney, who talked down this plan, and to every UCP MLA who voted against funding that would help fight rural crime, I have to ask, where is your plan for fighting rural crime? Four months after we announced our $10-million rural crime strategy, the UCP released a report in July calling for more consultation and proposing little in the way of real action. Meanwhile our plan is already starting to yield concrete results.
I’m not sure how the UCP agenda of deep cuts to services and tax breaks for the very wealthy will help us be safer in our homes and in our communities. Perhaps they can enlighten us.
Our government, on the other hand, has continued to invest in badly needed public services and infrastructure in rural Alberta. The increased investment in crime reduction is part of this commitment. I will continue to advocate to make public safety a priority in rural Alberta.
I’d like to thank every person who I spoke to who shared their concerns about rural crime with me, and everyone who has taken the time to report property crime. And most importantly, I’d like to thank the brave men and women in rural RCMP detachments who are working so hard to make our communities safer. Together, we’re making a difference.