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Barrhead RCMP to continue to focus on drug enforcement

Sgt. Bob Dodds said drug addiction is the root of the majority of crimes committed
Walter Preugschas Feb 1 copy
County of Barrhead Coun. Coun. Walter Preugschas suggested the RCMP might want to include a mental health initiative as part of its Annual Performance Plan.

BARRHEAD-As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Well, that might be overstretching things a bit, but as Barrhead RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds told County of Barrhead councillors at their Feb. 1 meeting that the detachment will continue to focus on police visibility and initiatives to combat drug crime as part of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) for the coming year.

Earlier in the meeting, he told councillors that for the 2021 calendar year, the overall crime rate was at a five-year low.

He noted that those are the same objectives that were part of the 2022 APP.

The APP is a document that outlines the detachment's policing priorities and is created with input from the municipal governments that it serves as part of its public engagement component. 

The Barrhead RCMP Detachment serves the Barrhead communities, a portion of Woodlands County (specifically the Fort Assiniboine area) and a small portion of Lac Ste. Anne County.

"We've achieved some good, especially early in the year, successfully executed two warrants," he said.

What Dodds was referring to is two police operations in the spring which resulted in several arrests and multiple criminal charges.

During the first warrant in April, police arrested six people and laid 88 charges in a suspected chop shop operation. During the second in May, police executed search warrants on two properties, one in town and the other in the county, which resulted in the arrests of two individuals who were charged with several drug trafficking-related charges.

"We are still plugging away on those, and that tells you how much effort has to go into those files," he said.

Dodds said he wants to continue focusing on drug-related offences because drugs are the root of the vast majority of most crimes, especially property offences.

"If we can attack the drug suppliers, perhaps we can make a dent in the property crime in the community," he said. "And then there is police visibility."

He added that he hopes the detachment can resume holding in-person town hall meetings.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Dodds said to communicate with the public, he has relied on Barrhead and Area Regional Crime Coalition (BARCC).

BARCC is a partnership between Woodlands County, the Town of Barrhead and the County of Barrhead, as well as the Barrhead RCMP and Rural Crime Watch.

It was formed in the spring of 2018, in part, due to discussions Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen had with all parties around initiatives to combat rural crime.

One of the most salient features is BARCC's ability to send messages to registered users via e-mail, text, or telephone. 

Reeve Doug Drozd said he couldn't argue with the areas Dodds chose to focus on.

"They are absolutely right," he said. "But perhaps, we could utilize BARCC to do a deep-dive and come up with other suggestions that come from the grassroots."

Dodds agreed to a point but noted when police ask the public what they would like to see most, they usually say visibility.

But the reality is being visible isn't necessarily the most effective way to police.

"I could put all 10 members on day shift, Monday through Friday, put them in police cars, and they will say 'my God look the police', but how effective is that in addressing crime? We want to find that middle ground," Dodds said. 

Coun. Walter Preugschas suggested the police might want to focus on mental health.

Dodds agreed that dealing with mental health and addiction issues would solve many crime issues communities experience but that is not the police's role.

He suggested that instead of the province contemplating spending millions to transition to an Alberta police force, they should use those funds to create more mental health and additional supports, especially in rural communities.

"We are given the responsibility of transporting people into the city for mental health assessments, but we are not medical professionals," Dodds said. "In a perfect world, there would be an on-call mental health professional that we could pick up when we go to those types of calls."

And he said the RCMP is looking at creating specialized mental health units that local detachments could utilize.

However, if they are created, he said, they would be like other specialized units where one serves a large geographic area.

"The last conversation I had was, for our district, it would be in Athabasca," he said. "They will not be able to be on the doorstep to help us resolve situations."

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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