Red Deer RCMP target city's high crime rate with new strategy focused on frequent offenders

After Red Deer's high crime rate garnered national attention, the central Alberta city's mayor and police said Thursday a new approach to dealing with frequent offenders is already showing results.

'Project Pinpoint' goes after 'persons, places and behaviours' most associated with criminal activity

Insp. Gerald Grobmeier with the Red Deer RCMP speaks to reporters about the police service's new approach to dealing with crime. (CBC)

After Red Deer's high crime rate garnered national attention, the central Alberta city's mayor and police said Thursday a new approach to dealing with frequent offenders is already showing results.

Red Deer was highlighted as the second-most dangerous city in Canada in a recent issue of Maclean's magazine, ranking behind only Grande Prairie, Alta., in terms of crime severity.

Mayor Tara Veer said she's concerned about "how that translates in terms of Red Deer's identity, nationally," but added she's pleased by the local RCMP's new approach to handling the city's crime problems.

Dubbed "Project Pinpoint," the strategy involves more targeting of particular "persons, places and behaviours" that are most associated with criminal activity, said Insp. Gerald Grobmeier.

That includes more frequent police checks on people who have been released from custody on conditions.

"If you're not abiding by those conditions, we're going to get a warrant for you," Grobmeier said. "We will find you. We will arrest you. And we will put you back in jail."

Property crime up, but police say city is safe

Property crime in Red Deer in the first half of 2016 was up 31.3 per cent over the previous four-year average for the same period.

Car theft has been especially frequent this year, with 679 reported incidents in the first six months of 2016 — more than double the 303 incidents recorded in the first half of 2012.

Police said things have turned around in the past four months, however, and there has been a decline in car thefts and break and enters.

Grobmeier credited that to increased tracking of repeat offenders, more thorough patrols of areas that have become crime hot spots and getting more officers out on bikes to establish community relationships.

Red Deer has historically had a relatively high crime severity index compared to other Canadian cities, but RCMP said the statistics shouldn't be overblown.

"Numbers are dangerous," Grobmeier said. "You can have them mean whatever you'd like them to mean."

Click on this interactive graph to see Red Deer's crime severity index and that of other cities over the past five years:

Insp. Heidi Wild, who is in charge of the Red Deer RCMP Detachment, also said the crime data doesn't tell the whole story.

"You can use stats to tell any story," she said.

"I feel completely safe and I think the majority of Red Deerians feel completely safe."

Insp. Heidi Wild, who is in charge of the Red Deer RCMP Detachment, and Mayor Tara Veer speak to reporters on Aug. 18 about the city's crime rate and the strategy to curb it. (CBC)

Asked how the crackdown on frequent offenders would impact the already crowded remand centre in Red Deer, police didn't have an answer.

"I don't know," Grobmeier said.

"Not our issue," Wild added.

Mayor Veer said the city has been frustrated by court backlogs that have led to charges being stayed in some cases, "by virtue of the fact that there are delays in justice proceedings."

"We need the support of the provincial government in ensuring that the judiciary is equipped locally to fulfil those objectives, as well," she said.

with files from Andrew Brown


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