Kevin Berger – Leader Staff
Sometimes there is a provincial story that we would like to report on but struggle to “localize” by finding someone in Barrhead that we could speak to about it.
As a case in point, the Alberta government announced a new plan to combat rural crime last week. This is obviously an issue of great importance to Barrhead residents and the plan will certainly have implications for the area, but who could we speak to that could actually give an opinion about its effectiveness?
So I can’t direct you to another page or to the T&C to read about the rural crime plan; all I can do is give my opinion on what’s proposed.
First, the province Is looking at expanding the roles and authorities of officers in the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and the traffic arm of the Alberta sheriffs. These changes will allow these officers to respond to a wider range of calls and to assist the RCMP in some emergencies.
It’s hard to say whether foisting more duties on to these officers will help without knowing the exact nature of those extra duties, but this doesn’t strike me as that helpful.
First, they already have quite a bit on their plate, and second, the training needed to carry out these extra duties isn’t supposed to start until fall 2020. We have a rural crime problem right now.
Along with beefing up fines for trespassing, the province is also looking at changing the Occupiers’ Liability Act to shield property-owners who are protecting their property against trespassers “who are, or who are believed to be, in the commission of a criminal act.” In short, if you see a stranger in your yard, you can now shoot at them and you won’t get sued.
I understand why they are doing that — a lot of rural people were upset over the charges laid against Eddie Maurice of Okotoks after he wounded a thief who was going through the vehicles parked in his yard.
But as I’ve said in the past, I don’t think we should be encouraging residents to pull out their shotgun every time they hear a noise in the yard. Either an innocent person is going to be killed or it’s going to lead to homeowners exchanging fire with drug addicts.
Finally, the province is finally going to enforce the Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act, which will require dealers and recyclers to keep better records of transactions, and create a new program that will enable communities to craft “impact statements” that will be factored into the sentencing of particularly heinous offenders.
While that won’t apply to most criminals, it may result in particularly severe crimes receiving harsher penalties. I find nothing disagreeable about that.
So the rural crime plan definitely has its positive qualities, but I can’t say it will be of tremendous benefit. Really, what we need is more action at the federal level to ensure the justice system isn’t simply a revolving door for repeat offenders.