Skip to content

Athabasca RCMP excited for proposed ankle monitoring funding

Staff Sgt. Mark Hall says program has potential for huge impact
Staff Sgt. Mark Hall
Athabasca RCMP Staff Sgt. Mark Hall

ATHABASCA - The Athabasca RCMP are hoping proposed legislation from the province of Alberta will help address issues with repeat offenders in their coverage area.

The legislation comes at a time when bail reform, which occurs at a federal level, has been making headlines across the country.

“The federal government’s bail policies are failing to keep people safe. We are taking an important step toward combatting rising crime, creating safer streets and neighbourhoods, and protecting our communities,” said Alberta Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis in a March 13 press release.

Athabasca’s RCMP detachment has been focusing heavily on repeat offenders over the last year to reduce recidivism. While the focus has paid off in communities like Calling Lake — the area saw a 16 per cent decrease in property crime in 2023 compared to 2022 — it remains a common concern for residents.

“We fully support any of these initiatives the province is undertaking to address the common issues we see with rural crime, specifically with breaks and enters,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Mark Hall. “Individuals are getting arrested, getting released within hours or days, and then recommitting and reoffending.”

Currently, for the majority of property crime offences, the Crown has to provide the reason for why a defendant should be denied bail, as opposed to more serious offences, like murder or sexual assault, where the defendant has to provide the reason for why they should be granted bail.

“We need strategies like this in order to help change behaviour,” said Hall. “I think this is absolutely awesome and are great conditions the province is looking at.”

The proposed legislation would see 24/7 monitoring by a centralized branch of Alberta’s Correctional Services, so police units wouldn’t have constant access to a defendant’s location.

“It’s not necessarily going to improve our response time, but what it will do is hopefully change that behaviour, at least in the time period where they have it on their ankles,” said Hall. “They won’t be re-victimizing the community.

“If we have a domestic violence situation where someone is on conditions to not go within a certain range of a person, we could be notified of that, but really it’s about accountability.”

An equal opportunity for bail

Ankle monitors are currently an option for defendants in Alberta — although they come at the expense of the person requesting them — but the proposed program would require monitors for certain crimes. Hall said opting for an ankle monitor is rare and in his time in Athabasca, he’s only seen one person opt for a monitor as part of a bail plan.

“In the past nearly three years, it's only happened once, and it was just the other week,” said Hall.

The Criminal Trial Lawyers Association in Edmonton also welcomed the announcement, although association president Paul Moreau did point out a concern for defence counsel to keep an eye on.

“I think the only concern we could have is to watch and make sure we don’t see these conditions imposed in cases where they aren’t really called for,” said Moreau. “There’s certainly going to be cases of accused people with lengthy and series records, particularly those who have a track record of not obeying bail conditions, where ankle monitoring will make the difference between them getting out or not getting out.”

Moreau also added that the announcement was a change defence lawyers had been asking for for a decade. If the province does end up taking over ankle monitoring, it will join the ten other jurisdictions in Canada that have a similar system in place.

“Up until now, it’s been the case that only people who can afford it — and it’s not an insignificant expense, it's hundreds of dollars a month — can perhaps get bail where an individual with the same kind of situation but not the money wouldn’t,” said Moreau.

“This will make it more equitable for sure.”

Cole Brennan

About the Author: Cole Brennan

Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks