WOODLANDS COUNTY - Property crime is on the rise in the Barrhead RCMP Detachment area in the latest quarter, but for the most part, the increase is not due to activity in the Fort Assiniboine/Goose Lake region.
That is what Barrhead RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds and Cpl. Filipe Vicente told Woodlands County councillors during their Jan. 31 council meeting in Whitecourt.
Vicente said most of the increase was due to activity in the Barrhead region, referring specifically to arsons in the County of Barrhead on Dec. 7 and online fraud that "bumped up" the numbers.
The pair were at the meeting in part to give the detachment's quarterly report and, at least in part, as Dodd's goodbye tour. In recent weeks, he has been making the rounds visiting councils of communities served by the RCMP Detachment as he neared retirement after more than 31 years. Dodd's last day was Feb. 2.
"There has been some [recent] theft and damage activity to Tallahassee Exploration Inc.'s well sites in the area," he said. "However, for the most part, things remain very stable."
Vicente said that according to 'K' Division statistics in 2023, the detachment responded to 3,200 calls, with only 162 in Woodlands County, of which 32 were motor vehicle collisions, mostly animal strikes.
Out of the remaining calls, he said 17 were suspicious activity reports; five were break and enters; eight were thefts of property over $5,000 (most likely from energy company sites).
"We also had calls about lost or found property, animal calls and a few 911 calls," Vicente said.
The number of responses to the detachment responded to in Woodlands County in 2021 and 2022 were similar at 160 and 162, respectively.
Dodds agreed but admitted those numbers are likely higher, as with any detachment and community, not all crimes are reported.
"But is it higher [in the Fort Assiniboine/Goose Lake area] because of the distance from Barrhead? I'm not sure," he said.
But Dodds suggested that is not the right mindset, repeating his mantra that residents should report any crime and suspicious activity.
"I always encourage people to report what they see when they see it, and we'll make an effort to deal with it," he said. "And if we see a trend, we can adjust our activities to be in the area more."
Vicente agreed, giving the example of a Timeu resident in mid-December who reported a suspicious vehicle was just "out of place".
"It turns out the vehicle was stolen, and there was a bunch of stolen property in it, and the driver had a bunch of drugs on him," he said.
Annual Performance Plan
Councillors also signed off on the detachment's annual performance plan (APP) for the area, focusing on police visibility and offender management.
The APP is a document that outlines the detachment's policing priorities. It is created by the local RCMP detachment, with input from the municipal governments that it serves, as part of the police force's public engagement component.
Reeve Dave Kusch said that traditionally, council has asked for one of the top priorities to be visibility, and he doesn't see a reason why that should change.
Vicente and Dodds agreed, noting visibility is something that all the municipalities the detachment serves and the public always say should be one of the top priorities for the RCMP and is one of the reasons why they've included it in the last several APPs.
Goose Lake/Freeman River Coun. Peter Kuelken agreed with Dodds' previous comment that one of the best ways the public can help police is by calling them promptly when they see suspicious activity, saying the municipality needs to do a better job communicating that, suggesting they build it into their communication plan.
Vicente said last year, the detachment's second APP focus was drug management, but for this year, he suggested offender management is another area the detachment wants to focus on in the APP.
The reason for this, he said, is that in 2023, the detachment successfully concluded several drug files, which resulted in the arrests and convictions of what they believe are the area's top and most prolific drug dealers.
Dodds added because of this success, it will take time for other criminals to fill in the void they left behind, and although the detachment will continue its drug enforcement efforts, he said it would be more effective if police focus their resources on another area.
Vicente concurred, suggesting offender management.
"Keeping track of all our problem children is always a key piece, especially when they are getting released on conditions more and more," he said. "That knock on the door, making sure they are home when they are supposed to, goes a long way."