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Crime reduction unit hits Calling Lake

Priority offenders targeted in January operation where 41 arrests were made

ATHABASCA – An RCMP operation in the Calling Lake area that ran from mid-January until February resulted in 41 arrests for various offences. 

A team of up to seven RCMP members made up of the Eastern Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit (EADCRU) along with support from Special Tactical Operations (STO) were in Calling Lake between Jan. 13 and Feb. 8, said Athabasca RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Gilligan in an interview last week. 

“STO crew members on the project made 41 arrests for various offences. A lot of them were for warrants and priority offenders that were identified prior to the project, so people who we wanted to get into custody that were difficult to find,” he said. “One of these arrests of a priority offender led to a CDSA (Controlled Drug and Substances Act) search warrant undertaken by Slave Lake GIS (General investigations Unit), supported by STO crew members. 

Units from the Athabasca and Wabasca RCMP detachments also took part in the search which “resulted in a significant seizure of methamphetamine, heroin laced with fentanyl, and firearms, and the recovery of a stolen truck, a stolen snowmobile, a stolen quad and a stolen trailer,” said Gilligan. “That was really positive.” 

The Athabasca RCMP detachment covers the area from Rochester to Calling Lake — that’s 130 km — so a significant amount of time is spent on the road travelling to calls for service. While conducting the CRU operation in Calling Lake, those members also helped out the local detachment by responding to regular calls in the area, and saving an Athabasca member from having to travel there. 

“Those calls for service ran from domestic violence, firearm complaints, assault, missing persons, COVID complaints, traffic issues, fires, bylaw and curfew related complaints. So, it was kind of soup to nuts,” said Gilligan. “They were there on the ground, so if we got called and they could go and deal with it quickly that would help us out.” 

Since the conclusion of the operation, Gilligan said there has been a noticeable reduction in calls to Calling Lake. 

As much as it was about reducing crime numbers though, the operation was also about community outreach. Officers were able to assist Bigstone Cree Nation with its COVID-19 monitoring of people entering and exiting the area 

“This initiative provided an opportunity for members of the community to have an enhanced police presence that contributed to crime reduction,” Gilligan said. “We value that this initiative has strengthened our working relationship with our communities and appreciate the support that the community members showed our officers.” 

Alberta RCMP report its crime reduction strategy has seen improved crime trends throughout the communities they serve. In 2020, there was a 17 per cent decrease in break and enters in the province compared to 2019; a 19 per cent decrease in vehicle thefts; and thefts under $5,000 fell by 22 per cent, with 7,852 fewer cases than 2019. 

“The Alberta RCMP recognizes that crime rates inevitably fluctuate, rising and declining over time,” said Supt. Peter Tewfic, who is in charge of the Alberta RCMP’s crime reduction strategy, in a recent media release. “While the nature of crime cannot be controlled, the RCMP can account for the plans it has in place to manage it. As Alberta’s provincial police force, we are confident that our crime reduction strategy is making an impact and yielding positive results.” 

The four crime reduction units that were formed in 2019 to help reduce rural crime in particular, including the EADCRU, which conducted the Calling Lake operation, is a big part of the crime reduction strategy as they work to target repeat offenders who impact communities most. 

“It had a huge impact on the community that was suffering and it was certainly well received by the people up there,” said Gilligan. 

czwick@athabasca.greatwest.ca