County Releases Policing Survey Results
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Rocky View County has released the results of its recent survey on policing in the municipality, which saw over 1,800 people provide input on RCMP priorities.
“The number of participants clearly shows that policing is an important issue for Rocky Viewers,” says Reeve Greg Boehlke. “RCMP figures show that total Criminal Code offences in the County rose 95 percent from 1,322 in 2014 to 2,414 in 2016. We saw the number drop back to 2,150 in 2017, but we need to reduce that even more.”
RCMP officers from detachments in Airdrie, Cochrane, Strathmore, and Beiseker serve the County. The Provincial and Federal governments pay for rural policing, but Rocky View County directly funds three additional officers.
The County conducted the survey to get a sense of what residents believe should be the priority focus areas for the RCMP in the municipality. Survey respondents were also asked questions on the relationships between residents and the RCMP, and on the general sense of safety in the community.
The survey showed that the three highest policing concerns for residents were consistent throughout the County. Major property crime topped the list, followed by crimes against persons and then minor property crime.
Residents in the County’s more-populous southeast and west identified impaired driving as the fourth most important policing priority, with illegal drugs in fifth place. Residents in the north central and northeast switched those priorities, with illegal drugs in fourth place and impaired driving in fifth.
The feedback on priorities will be shared with the RCMP to help with their future plans. The results from County residents will be considered along with input from the other municipalities the detachments serve, and direction from the Provincial and Federal governments.
“It’s a challenge to provide policing in any rural municipality, but we’re committed to working with the RCMP to give the best possible service to Rocky Viewers. This survey helps us move forward with that goal,” says Lorraine Wesley-Riley, the County’s manager of Enforcement Services.
When faced with crime, 53 percent of respondents ranked RCMP response time as good or excellent, but in the northeast part of the County that number was only 32 percent. County-wide, the force ranked much higher on professionalism, with an 83 percent good or excellent score, and on communications skills with an 80 percent score.
About 74 percent of Rocky Viewers in the southeast and northeast part of the County felt their relationship with the RCMP was good or excellent, compared to about 64 percent for west and north central residents.
The widest gap in survey results centered on the statement “I feel safe in my community.” Only 43 percent of northeast residents agreed or strongly agreed with that statement, compared to 62 percent in the north central area, 66 percent in the southeast, and 74 percent in the west.
“Those numbers directly relate to population density in these four areas of the County. Generally, people feel more exposed in less-populated rural areas,” says Wesley-Riley.
Over 766 general comments were made by Rocky Viewers on a wide range of policing subjects.
“It will take us some time to process all of this feedback, but one thing that jumps out already is the theme of more police presence in the community,” Wesley-Riley says. “People want to see the police more often, but in a large, sparsely populated rural municipality you simply can’t achieve the kinds of patrols you’d see in an urban area.”
A second challenge to greater police presence is the administrative burden that is now a part of the criminal justice system.
“The RCMP tell us the paperwork on something such as an impaired driving charge can now take three times longer than it used to. So they’re forced to fill out forms instead of patrolling the community,” Reeve Boehlke says.
Moving forward, Rocky View County has two main priorities in the near term for policing. First is a policing strategy for Langdon.
Once a town or hamlet grows to over 5,000 residents it must fund its own policing. Langdon has now reached that population, and the County has until April of 2020 to choose between contracting an existing police service, participating in a regional police service, or forming a County police service.
The second priority involves establishing and supporting more crime watch groups throughout Rocky View County.
“Neighbours helping neighbours is part of our heritage as a rural municipality,” Reeve Boehlke says. “A crime watch program is right in line with this principle. We’ll certainly work to achieve more police presence, but rural crime watch groups are very effective in preventing crime, very cost-effective, and something we can do right now.”
Both Reeve Boehlke and Wesley-Riley encourage any residents interested in forming a crime watch group to get in touch with County Enforcement Services at 403-230-1401 or EnforcementServices@rockyview.ca.
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