Statistics Canada says Alberta saw a significant increase in police-reported crime last year and while that trend includes large cities, residents in some rural areas of the province have been picking up on the problem as well.

Long-time High River area resident David Culbert says he can't recall seeing property crime trends like this in his community before.

"We never used to lock our doors, but we do now," Culbert said.

Suzanne Oel

Suzanne Oel, a councillor with the MD of Foothills and president of the High Country Rural Crime Watch Association, says some rural residents need to get out of the habit of leaving their belongings unsecured. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Whether it's vandalism, break-ins or motor vehicle thefts, he says he's seen an increase over the past few years.

So Culbert and some neighbours recently formed the Foothills Rural Crime Watch Association.

"I think people are kind of banding together and saying we're not going to take this anymore."

He's not alone.

Earlier this year, the RCMP said it noticed a rise in property related crimes in some rural Alberta communities and a drop in crimes against persons like assault.

Suzanne Oel, a councillor with the MD of Foothills and the president of the High Country Rural Crime Watch Association, says she believes the offenders range from locals to outsiders.

The association is urging rural residents to drop some old, country habits.

"You know, put away your stuff, lock your vehicles, lock your homes and don't go with the days gone by," Oel said.

She says the problem isn't necessarily about the economic downturn.

"I think that's the easy answer but I don't think it's really related to that," she said.

"I think it's related to organized crime coming in as well as crimes related to drugs or other groups of people who are just seeing the opportunity."