ATHABASCA — Athabasca RCMP have seen a slight decrease in property crime and increases in break and enters and assaults in the second quarter, according to a report presented by Staff Sgt. Mark Hall to town council.
During the Nov. 21 meeting, town councillors voted 6-0 — Coun. Jon LeMessurier was absent — to accept Hall’s report as information, which included an update on staffing changes, as well as the result of the 10-week body-worn camera pilot project.
“Our door is always open, and I know your door is always open, so it’s a good relationship — thank you for that,” said Mayor Rob Balay.
Hall’s report, which covered July 1 to Sept. 30, cited a three per cent decrease in property crime from last year, with 232 cases in 2022 down to 226 cases in 2023. Following the presentation Coun. Ida Edwards asked how the local state of emergency in Calling Lake, initially announced Oct. 11, had affected local RCMP.
“It really didn’t affect operations here, we didn’t have to make too many major changes to what we’re doing here. One of the things that we focused on here is making sure we’re not depleting our resources,” said Hall.
Hall listed easy access to the Eastern Alberta District teams, an auto-theft unit, and other resources due to the increased police attention and presence in the Calling Lake area.
“That state of emergency in Calling Lake has brought a lot more regional attention to the area, and that’s been a plus. It’s sad it had to happen like that,” said Edwards.
Break and enters saw a significant increase from last year, with 57 counts in 2023, up from 25 in 2022. Despite the jump, the number of break-and-enters has declined from 2019, which saw 75 counts in Q2.
Hall reminded councillors the numbers in his report are a reflection of the entire detachment coverage area, which spans from south of Rochester north to Pelican Portage, a small community 127 kilometres north of Athabasca.
“It’s not affecting us in town here as much as it’s affecting the rural side of things right now, and that’s to be expected,” said Hall. “Every fall it seems, and springtime, those are the times when people are leaving their cabins, leaving their summer properties, and they tend to get hit a little bit more.”
A 15 per cent increase in persons crime equated to nine additional assaults, with 50 counts in 2023, up from 41 in 2022. Hall noted many of these charges — mostly assault causing bodily harm — stemmed from disputes between known parties. Criminal harassment, or stalking, charges also increased from 6 counts in 2022 to 15 counts in 2023.
Cpl. Charles DuBois, who has served the area for a year-and-a-half, will be leaving the detachment before the New Year and Hall noted a new officer from St. Albert has been selected to fill the position.
Hall also informed councillors the 10-week field test pilot project for body-worn cameras proved unsuccessful after its completion earlier this year.
Hall was unable to provide specifics on which field test requirements the cameras did not meet, but wrote in a Nov. 10 letter to Balay a new contractor will be selected for further implementation of the now-mandatory Digital Evidence Management Service rollout.