Alberta sheriffs make highway debut this weekend

Nearly two dozen sheriffs will begin patrolling Alberta's highways this weekend.

Speeders, you've been warned. There's a new sheriff in town —actually 21 — and they're about to hit Alberta's highways.

Alberta's new sheriffs made their debut Friday at a press conference in Calgary. The officers will begin enforcing traffic laws on a number of busy highways this weekend.

Earlier this year, the province conducted asuccessful pilot project where sheriffs were partnered with RCMP officers in northern Alberta tohelpwith traffic enforcement.

Thearmed sheriffs will be primarilyresponsible for rural highways and will have the power to arrest. They will handle all aspects of highway enforcement, from ticketing to accident investigation.

An additional 21 officers will be on the job by Thanksgiving.

The sheriffs are scheduled to patrol highways 8, 11, 22 and 63 over the Labour Day long weekend.

Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko saidthe new programisn't a reflection on the ability of the RCMP to do their job — it's about providing a group of specialized officers to free up Mounties for other duties.

Cenaiko called the program part of a bigger push to integrate police agencies in the province, not to lay the groundwork for a provincial police force.

There are an estimated 100,000 car crashes in Albertaeach year resulting in anabout 27,000 injuries and 400 deaths.