There are two basic models of policing; reactive and proactive. Reactive policing can be defined as police responding to crimes as they occur, whereas proactive policing involves the police acting on their own initiative to develop information about crime and strategies for its suppression.
Historically, Medicine Hat has had a relatively low crime rate and significantly lower crime severity index as compared to similar sized jurisdictions in our province. There are a number of factors that can influence the crime severity index, which assigns a higher “weight” to a more serious offence, like a homicide, than a less serious offence, such as a property crime. In 2016, four homicides occurred within the city, all of which resulted in criminal charges, but will undoubtedly affect our crime rating.
The Medicine Hat Police Service’s strategic plan outlines four main priorities including; community safety, community engagement, human resources and technology, along with officer safety. A number of our community safety initiates include proactive policing strategies, while our community engagement efforts strive to connect the MHPS with the community. Over the past several years, the MHPS has focused on developing programs and collaborative partnerships with various stakeholder groups, with a goal to reduce and prevent crime, improve the response to crimes that do occur, as well as build and sustain community trust. The difficulty with a proactive style of policing is the ability to measure and report on success. Is the effectiveness of a police service best measured by its ability to solve crimes after they occur? Alternatively, is it the absence of crime? Arguments exist for both questions, but the MHPS believes that the ability to be fluid and flexible and adjust policing activities according to crime trends and crime prevention strategies is most effective in the long term to reduce crime and the fear of crime in the community.
Within the Police Service there are several proactive units including the Priority Street Crimes Unit, which has a mandate to hold offenders who are released into the community by the Justice system accountable to their conditions, and the Community Safety Unit, which is responsible for the majority of the community outreach initiatives. The MHPS also has several integrated units including the Safe Families Intervention Team (SFIT), which includes police members working with staff from the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter, the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) in a partnership with Alberta Health Services, the Family Crimes Unit which includes a Child and Family Services social worker and most recently the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) in partnership with local physicians. All of the integrated units were developed with our partners to provide improved service to the community and better support and systems navigation assistance for victims of crime.
The MHPS also attempts to foster community relationships with events such as our annual open house, which allows members of the public to get a closer look at the MHPS and some of the units within. The eight-week Community Police Academy provides an opportunity for a more detailed understanding of each unit within the Service. In addition to these initiatives, officers are encouraged to be active in the community as volunteers, coaches and committee members. I personally have been involved with the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society, the Sexual Assault Response Committee, Ducks Unlimited, as well as the Community Counsel on Homelessness, and several other ad-hoc boards and committees.
Through our proactive policing strategies, the MHPS is committed to providing a high level of service to community in an effective and efficient manner, as this is not only what our community expects of a police service, but also what it deserves.
-Inspector Brent Secondiak has been with the Medicine Hat Police Service since 1999 and has served the community in a variety of units including the Patrol Section, the Drug Enforcement Unit, the Major Crimes Section and the Administrative Services Section. He is currently a member of the Executive Team and provides oversight to a variety of sections, including Major Crimes, Community Safety, the Tactical Team and the Victims Assistance Unit.