CYPRESS COUNTY, AB — Crime in rural communities has been on the rise and residents have started to take action.
More and more have come on board and have joined the Southeast Alberta Rural Crime Watch association.
The group has been around for more than 20 years but its membership has nearly doubled in the last few months.
Corporal Shane Ryan with the Redcliff detachment said the numbers show more people want to get involved.
He said everyone in these rural settings knows their neighbours, including what vehicles they drive and when they’re not home.
“All these people in the rural areas, they know their neighbours,” Ryan said. “They know their neighbours better than anyone else.”
They can also recognize a suspicious vehicle when they see one.
Ryan said getting a call about a break and enter five years ago was rare, along with anything to do with drugs.
Now, people have their guards up and they’re not leaving their doors unlocked like they once were.
Ryan said this type of community policing is crucial when it comes to covering the county, which is roughly 13,000 square kilometres.
“In the past, we’ve had instances where a person has seen a suspicious vehicle and then they learn of a theft or a break and enter, or some crime, and then they call us and say ‘Oh, 10 days ago I saw this vehicle’,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t help us. We need timely information.”
The association has about 300 members in total.
They stay connected through social media and have a fan-out system in place for urgent situations.
Once a message is typed out, members can receive it in a matter of seconds via text or email.
Shannon Pakula is the secretary-treasurer with the association and has been with the group since 2005.
She said since August of last year, the group has had 94 people sign on to take part.
Pakula believes the group helps bring neighbours together for a common cause.
“People are becoming more aware of groups like ours and want to take part, want to make a difference, want to be involved in that kind of thing to protect themselves, protect their communities, their property,” she said.
She said all members need to do is keep their eyes and ears peeled for anything out of the ordinary.
“What you’re doing as a member is just everything you would do normally,” she said. “If you see strange things going on, strange people, strange vehicles in your area, you would just take that information down, it’s a description of the vehicle and the people in it, maybe a license plate number if you can get it. You pass that along to the RCMP. They in turn determine if that is something to follow up on.”
“When we get a call, especially if a suspicious vehicle, with the number of thefts we’ve been having lately, we treat it as a priority,” Ryan said.
For more information on the association and on becoming a member, click here.
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