Ahead of the Heard: Rural crime issue needs new approach

Columnist Will Verboden says utilizing technology could help

The recent interest in rural crime by governments and the urban media has seen a profusion of responses.

They range from information meetings by the RCMP to promises of more money for law enforcement by the Alberta government.

I suspect neither will have much impact in stemming the crime wave in the short to medium term.

That puts the matter back into the laps of property owners to find some resolution. There may be some that contemplate the use of firearms as a means to deter criminal invasions of their properties, but as tempting as that may be it’s clear that the RCMP and crown prosecutors will quickly lay a variety of charges against anyone threatening criminals with such an approach when defending their property.

The line between threats to property and threats to life and limb is not clearly defined and is subject to interpretation and discretion by law enforcement officials.

That’s not a lot of help in a highly-emotional situation where a property owner needs to somehow determine within a few seconds whether an incident may escalate to life-threatening. At issue is whether a life-threatening scenario is only to be defined after a property owner is injured or killed by the criminal.

The reality it seems, is that property owners need to examine what steps they can take to defend themselves and their property short of the use of firearms.

Modern technology might be a good first step towards deterring potential criminals being that most such ignorant low-lifes are looking for an easy target without a lot of complications.

Today there are many options to consider in surveillance technology, including verbal and mechanical sound warning devices. There’s nothing like a siren going off and automatic flood lights suddenly being lit to trigger a skulking criminal’s fear and flee nature.

It has also been suggested that professional looking warning signs be posted at entrances noting that the property is under camera surveillance – that only works if dim-witted criminals have the ability to read – perhaps large flashing warning signs with simple words would be best.

Some ideas include the use of paintball guns as a means to deter and perhaps identify criminals – that might work – but being hit with fluorescent paint might just cause the criminal to get really angry and take a violent reprisal.

Another idea is the use of implanted devices on equipment that are activated when they are moved and can be tracked by GPS with a cell phone app. That would be of tremendous help to RCMP even if it takes them an hour to respond.

It seems there are a multitude of ideas and I can see an opportunity for crime prevention consultants to make a business of coming up with a technology battle plan for defending rural properties.

Sure, it will be expensive, but victim anxiety and theft losses can also be very costly.

This causes one to ponder why insurance companies aren’t in the forefront of this type of approach. Perhaps they are, but it seems their usual response to losses is just higher premiums.

I can see a role for government in coming up with a more enlightened and realistic response to the rural crime wave.

What about rural municipalities – can they play a role in sponsoring meetings between insurance companies, crime prevention consultants, RCMP, and the Department of Justice to instigate a study into what sort of prevention steps, equipment and new technology can be deployed on an incremental basis to deter criminal activity?

I believe there is a proactive role for the Alberta government to play in taking the initiative in this matter beyond the politically-motivated and dubious promise of $10 million towards more law enforcement (might that have something to do with the upcoming election?)

That approach is long-term at best – wouldn’t it better to prevent crime in the first place and not have to spend ever increasing millions on the aftermath?

The Alberta Department of Agriculture is going to throw $81 million at energy efficiency programs to reduce emissions which is nowhere near the crisis level of rural crime.

I suspect producers and property owners would sure like to see say $40 million of that money re-directed towards reducing something that actually affects their very lives today – like deterring rural crime with modern technology.

Perhaps when property owners feel more safe and secure they might be more inclined to look at ways to save the planet, or is that too much common sense?


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