WESTLOCK — In an effort to be more proactive in terms of police presence, the Westlock RCMP plan to engage prolific offenders on a more frequent basis and organize more joint check stop operations in co-operation with the county’s bylaw enforcement, the Alberta RCMP Traffic — Westlock unit and other enforcement services.
That’s some of what Sgt. Jeff Sehn had to share with Westlock County councillors at their Nov. 14 meeting, where he shared an update on police activities since he had taken over at the detachment at the end of September.
During a Q&A at the end of the presentation, Coun. Stuart Fox-Robinson said that one thing councillors keep hearing about is a lack of police presence, particularly in some hamlets during certain hours of the night. He then asked how that can be addressed.
Sehn, who had transferred to the Westlock detachment from Redwater, said one of the first things he had done upon arriving was to update the RCMP’s annual performance plan to include some new initiatives.
One of those initiatives is to do more frequent check-ins with prolific offenders instead of simply waiting and reacting to whatever crimes they may commit.
Another imitative he implemented was to appoint a member to arrange quarterly check stops. Every three months, he said, the general duty detachment will reach out to the traffic services unit, the county’s peace officers, the Alberta Sheriffs and anyone else who polices this area for a joint operation.
"That will increase the... proactive presence in the community,” he said.
Reeve Christine Wise also asked about how the RCMP could be more active during the early morning hours of 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. and wondered if it would be possible for the RCMP to engage local Citizens on Patrol (COP) groups more, possibly by attending their monthly meetings.
Sehn said he had appointed Const. Riley Sutherland to be the new liaison with community groups like COP, adding that Sutherland was empowered to attend as many meetings as she saw fit.
In fact, he noted Sutherland had already went out and engaged COP a few weeks ago.
Of course, Sehn’s visit to council didn’t consist entirely of talking generally about police initiatives; he also presented some crime statistics for 2022, including a break-down of the top ten file types for the Westlock detachment.
Topping the list in terms of work were motor vehicle collisions, which comprised approximately 9.19 per cent of their workload. Second on the list were other moving traffic violations, which took up 8.2 per cent.
Mischief was their number one concern after traffic-related matters, comprising 4.48 per cent of the detachment’s workload. Close behind were Mental Health Act-related matters at 4.41 per cent.
Abandoned vehicles and other non-moving traffic matters comprised 4.28 and 4.13 per cent of the detachment’s workload respectively.
The amount of time and resources devoted to investigating assaults had increased to three per cent, which also had an effect on Westlock’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) rating.
Sehn noted the community’s CSI value had risen from 78.8 in 2021 to 87.4 in 2022 due in large part to the increases in assaults — 32 more in 2022 than in 2021.
In response to deputy reeve Ray Marquette asking why there had been such an increase, Sehn said that one of their ongoing priorities each year is domestic violence.
“We’re continuously encouraging victims to report (assaults), and with that comes a steady increase in cases,” he said.
In addition, Sehn said the COVID pandemic put a lot of stress on people, and as such many relationships had become even more frayed than they were before.
In addition to assaults, the other top contributors to Westlock’s CSI included break-and-enters, possession of stolen goods, Criminal Code traffic matters, theft of motor vehicles, mischief to property, fraud, theft over $5,000 and sexual assaults.
Early in his report, Sehn said they currently had 12 general duty members, including himself, two corporals, nine constables and four Detachment Services positions.
There is also the Alberta RCMP Traffic — Westlock unit, which has one sergeant, one corporal, five constables and one other position.
Coun. Sherri Provencal asked Sehn if they were still short of members. Sehn replied they were still down one; they were briefly back up to full strength when he arrived, but shortly afterwards, an officer resigned in order to move back home to B.C.
Sehn indicated he hoped to have that opening filled prior to Christmas.