Small Alberta communities ask for help fighting crime
'We have one city block in Amisk ... we've had 14 acts of crime [there] in what, 11 months?'
The mayors of two communities in east-central Alberta are asking for help fighting an increase in crime.
Amisk Mayor Bill Rock and Hardisty Mayor Anita Miller have approached the RCMP for help fighting crimes they say are making people worry in their communities.
They had a meeting with the RCMP on Wednesday and have another meeting scheduled for Monday.
The mayors say they're hearing similar concerns from officials in other small towns such as Hardisty, Lougheed, Carstairs and Delburne.
"Over the last three weeks, our post office and bank were broken into twice — two nights in a row over the Family Day Long weekend," said Rock, mayor of the village of Amisk, 220 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.
"We have one city block in Amisk, which isn't a very big city block, which has two businesses and five residences. We've had 14 acts of crime [there] in what, 11 months?"
Miller, mayor of Hardisty, 24 km northwest of Amisk, says she's noticed a marked increase in vehicle thefts.
"It seems every day or every other day, in broad daylight," she said.
Downturn may be a factor
Miller hasn't ever seen crime rates this high and Rock believes it hasn't been this bad since 1980s. Both think the downturn in the economy may be playing a role.
Rock said the crime rate in his village started to increase in the fall of 2015.
"Last year we actually had an armed robbery where the teller had been held hostage for a period of time while they waited for the safe to open," he said. "And then over the course of the summer and into the fall we had numerous people who lost pickup trucks and equipment."
"I would say at least three, maybe more, incidents where they've stolen pickup trucks out of people's yards at gunpoint.
"One in particular that's really disturbing to us was one where they stole a pickup truck at 2 in the morning."
A woman, six months pregnant, heard the truck start up. She went out onto the step with her one-year-old daughter, Rock said.
"The guy pointed a gun over the cab of the stolen truck and yelled at her, and out of the yard they went."
'Our residents are scared'
Rock believes many of the criminals carry weapons. "They're fully armed and our residents are scared," he said, adding the incidents would be shocking even in big cities.
Rock is hoping for more resources for his village, which lost five of its residents, including a family of four, in a highway crash last week.
"Our local detachment, from one end to the other, is 164 km or something and we have eight officers that cover that area," said Rock.
"It worked for us for many years. It's just possibly for rural parts of Alberta they need a task force or resources that they can move around very quickly."
Rock has also appealed to Alberta Justice for help.
Wildrose MLA wants 'immediate action'
Wes Taylor, the Wildrose MLA for Battle River-Wainwright, has also become involved.
Taylor issued a news release Feb. 21 requesting immediate action from Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley.
"I have not heard from her, nor have I heard that she's done anything at this present time," said Taylor, who plans to bring it up this week in the legislature.
In a written statement to the CBC, Ganley said: "Officials within my department have been in contact with Amisk and Wainwright and will continue to work with them to address these types of issues.
"Provincial support for police includes more than half a billion dollars for municipal and provincial policing services throughout Alberta. Our government also provided funding this year to the Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association which helps communities like these.
"All police services in Alberta, including the RCMP, have authority over operational decisions, so they can shift existing resources in response to emerging trends."
Hardisty considering rural crime watch
"We want to do something like a rural crime watch or citizens on patrol or whatever," said Miller.
"We've had that in the past and it sort of faded away because things were quiet."
Miller said now that it's not so quiet, they want to assist the RCMP.
The RCMP have not yet responded to the CBC's request for an interview.