Hobbema bumps up police presence in historic deal
The native community of Hobbema is celebrating an historic tripartite agreement that will see nine aboriginal police officers added to the RCMP force there.
Officials say it's the first time the federal government, the province and leaders of a First Nation band have negotiated an agreement on policing matters.
The deal, worth $8 million, was forged in the wake of escalating crime and violence on the reserve.
Roy Lewis, a member of the Samson Cree First Nation which governs Hobbema, said the agreement is a milestone.
"Not only is this the first time the First Nations have gotten together to do something constructive in terms of policing and justice issues...it's the fact that it's down to where treaties where negotiated back in 1876 (in our case Treaty Six) – it is certainly part of our promise to have government take care of public safety for First Nations members across Canada."
Violence and gang activity in Hobbema began spiralling out of control last summer when in one five-day period police responded to a shooting, a stabbing, a home invasion, a fire bombing and numerous weapons calls.
The community has been trying to curtail the crime rate with various initiatives, including the recent introduction of cadet programs to the reserve. So far, they're meeting with great success.
Since they began four months ago, more than 400 youth have signed up to join the cadets.
A school resource officer has also recorded an 80 per cent drop in instances of bullying, vandalism and violence within the school system.
Community leaders say the addition of nine aboriginal police officers will also be a boon to their efforts to turn things around. In addition to their policing duties, the officers will act as counsellors, coaches and mentors to the youth in hopes to keeping them from a life of crime.
Harvey Cenaiko, Alberta's solicitor general, said it's the first time two levels of government have teamed up with First Nation on a crime fighting campaign.
"This is a historical signing, the largest community tripartite policing agreement that we've had in Alberta – a significant impact on the community – but it shows the support between the province the federal government and the Hobbema community as a whole."
Chief Victor Buffalo, head of the Samson Cree First Nation, said he hoped there would be equal attention paid (by the media) to the positive things that are taking place on the reserve – as opposed to all the negative news that has predominated.