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Rural crime fight continuing, says Alberta's justice minister

Eligible community-based organizations and interest groups can apply for one-time grants of between $5,000 and $25,000.
Mickey Amery, the minister of Alberta Justice. Government of Alberta photo

Alberta’s minister of Justice says work is ongoing on several fronts to address the ongoing problem of criminals from cities coming into rural areas to commit offences such as break and enters.

During a recent one-hour news conference for rural media, Mickey Amery was asked by the Albertan: “Alberta’s rural communities are increasingly being targeted by criminals coming out from larger urban centres to break into businesses and homes, steal vehicles and other property, and in some cases commit serious assaults. What are your department’s plans to address this growing problem?”

Amery, who is also the province’s attorney general, responded that the his department is engaging with municipalities, local rural RCMP detachments and others.

“We are working very diligently to address the rural crime issue,” said Amery. “Alberta’s rural community are certainly struggling with some of the challenges of the crime aspect and a lot of this comes down to a lack of resources and simply geography where it is difficult to police are a large are with a small detachment.

“What are doing right now is we are providing all municipalities with grant funding in order to provide them with the ability to review their policing in their respective communities and to provide for a case study and an analysis to help them better understand how they can efficiently use their police services as best as possible.

The province is increasing help for rural RCMP detachments with sheriffs and other supports, he said.

Amery also said he has requested and received approval for a “significant increase” in the Alberta prosecution pre-charge assessment office.

“This is going to be a relationship between our Crown prosecution service and our local police detachments, and what the purpose of this is to allow our prosecutors the opportunity to review and work closely with police.”

The province is advocating with the federal government to shore up bail reform policies in an effort to better target repeat offenders, he said.

In a recently released policy statement, the Rural of Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) association said rural crime is an ongoing concern across the province.

“In many rural areas, residents and businesses perceive crime as a crisis that significantly impacts their quality of life,” said the RMA, which represents 69 municipalities, including Mountain View and Red Deer counties.

“Due to the unique challenges of policing in rural Alberta, supporting safe rural communities requires collaboration among many groups, including Alberta Justice.”

During the recent press conference, Amery also said work is ongoing to fight the theft of copper and other materials from industrial sites such as oil and gas facilities in rural areas.

“I want to create very hostile environment for people who are committing these crimes,” he said. “I want to make sure that our prosecution is fully prosecuting in these areas. We are going to take the most hard line approach as it relates to serious and ongoing repeat offenders. This one of the things that we have to take more seriously.”

Amery also outlined the province’s recently launched Alberta Community Justice Grant initiative, which will provide $1.2 million in one-time grant funding to support community-based initiatives that provide alternatives to the formal court system.

“This grant will help community organizations explore and create an innovative programming to provide even more options for Albertans accessing the justice system and help reduce pressure on the courts,” he said.

“Community justice seeks to engage community members in decision-making and encourages collaborative problem-solving to address the root causes of conflict through mediation, peacemaking and other community-based processes that could help resolve conflict outside a courtroom.”

The program will support community justice initiatives including needs assessment, training resources, technological support and research efforts, he said.

Eligible program activities able to access the grant include the following:

• Undertake assessments and evaluations that enhance understanding of the scope and capabilities of current community justice programs to identify areas requiring additional attention and support. 

• Facilitate participatory and engagement exercises to gain a deeper understanding of the specific needs of Albertans concerning access to community justice in relation to criminal, family, and civil matters. 

• Investigate prospects for implementing community justice-oriented programs, underpinned by evidence-based practices. Undertake initiatives that establish partnerships among various stakeholders, aiming to improve access to community justice in their respective communities for the benefit of Albertans. 

• Offer training or educational programming to community stakeholders to increase skills and understanding of new community justice techniques and best practices. 

• Utilize innovative technological solutions that support the increased use of community justice programs and/or evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives.

“I’m excited about this opportunity that this grant presents to rural communities,” Amery said. “By fostering community involvement, as well as exploring alternative approaches to justice, we can collectively strive towards a safer and stronger Alberta.”

Eligible community-based organizations and interest groups can apply for one-time grants of between $5,000 and $25,000.

The grants are open to municipalities, community groups with a designated fiscal agents. Applications are being on the accepted until Feb. 29.

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