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Athabasca RCMP boss presents crime stats and talks about new initiatives

Property crime and drugs continues to be major focus for police
Athabasca RCMP Staff Sgt. Mark Hall was in front of the Town of Athabasca councillors May 16 to break down the detachments fourth-quarter numbers. Hall also walked councillors through two new programs that they had started to implement, the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP) and Data 2 Action.

ATHABASCA – Athabasca RCMP are celebrating a “great” end to the 2022 fiscal year, with members exceeding all of their targets, according to Staff Sgt. Mark Hall’s presentation to the Town of Athabasca council May 16.

Councillors also took the opportunity to ask him questions throughout his near 30-miunute presentation May 16, eschewing the more traditional approach of doing a formal Q&A at the end.

Hall started by talking about the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program (VODP), which the detachment recently enrolled in. VODP, which operates independently of Alberta Health Services, allows clients undergoing opioid withdrawal systems to access medication that will assist with the process.

The program isn’t unique to Alberta as it’s been used in Edmonton, as well as other detachments in southern Alberta. Now, anyone that is going to spend a length of time in the cells at the detachment will have the option to partake in the program. And while it’s not mandatory, Hall does believe that it helps as clients are put in touch with a doctor on the phone, which “gets them started on a good path.” From there, someone from the detachment can pick up their medication for them from a local pharmacy

“Right now, when they come into contact with us, they’re in a vulnerable state,” said Hall. “We might be holding them for a significant amount of time, so if the drugs leave their system, they have no recourse.”

So far, one person has used the service, with Hall saying that that person had “wanted to better their life.” Of course, the introduction of a new program often comes alongside the question “has this been an issue?”

“Opioids, meth, other types of drugs are all common. There are certainly a few people in these communities that have issues with drugs. If we can offer them that behavior-altering point that I’ve been talking about since I got here, then it’s just an awesome opportunity,” said Hall.

Hall also gave a breakdown on some of the year’s stats, including the Top 10 most common types of files that the detachment dealt with. Mischief, which is loosely defined as “destroying or damaging property” in the Criminal Code of Canada, led the way with 111 files in 2022, and 132 in the RCMP’s fiscal year, which runs April to March.

Suspicious person/vehicle/property calls were the second most common, at 101, while motor vehicle collisions that led to a reportable level of damage (more than $2,000) were the third at 80.

The RCMP are also using a program called Data 2 Action, which approaches crime prevention from a more analytical viewpoint. The initiative “turns data and intelligence into actionable tasks focused on the four pillars of policing: apprehension, suppression, targeted prevention, and offender management.

Hall said that from there they’re able to tailor patrol patterns to try and reduce crime in certain areas, which is the “targeted prevention” aspect. With crimes of opportunity continuing to be an issue in the Athabasca-area — including three cars that were rummaged through at the detachment — Hall hopes that Data 2 Action will be another tool the police can use to make it harder for criminals to find so called “soft” targets.

Anniversary celebrations

Hall also talked about the upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations, which the Athabasca Detachment will host May 26. Starting at noon, the public is invited to the detachment, where members of the RCMP, fire department, and others will be barbequing, an RCMP helicopter (barring any emergencies that require it’s use), prize draws, and some speakers playing music. Kids will also be able to take part in a paint a cruiser event, as well as an interactive presentation on forensics and fingerprints. Student art projects on the RCMP 150 theme will also be on display.

Cole Brennan,

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