SARM asks for more police officers as farmers take up arms
Harvest coincides with increased criminal activity, says SARM president
An apparent spike in crime in some parts of rural Saskatchewan has some farmers arming themselves and it has the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, SARM, asking for more RCMP officers.
"We know the RCMP have only so many officers out there in the rural areas. We've requested from the province that we could get more funding for those officers. We've lobbied the federal government as well," said SARM president Ray Orb.
It's a way of demonstrating [that] if you are a criminal and you are coming into this area, we don't want you to bother our farm,- SARM president Ray Orb
Recently, an alleged near-robbery by masked men armed with handguns prompted some farmers to send CBC News photos of the guns they travel with while harvesting. RCMP say they are investigating and have not made any arrests.
- Several Saskatchewan RCMP units searching for 3 armed suspects
- Sask. farmer says carrying a firearm turns from fending off wildlife to personal safety
On Wednesday, the RCMP urged people to let the police handle any criminal activity.
Orb said farmers want to protect themselves and their property and he expects them to obey the law.
"I don't think they [farmers] intend to harm anyone. I think it's a way of demonstrating [that] if you are a criminal and you are coming into this area, we don't want you to bother our farm," he said.
"I think we have to respect farmers' rights and at the same time I know that farmers have to respect the law and be careful with the firearms."
Orb said crime seems to rise during harvest and in the spring when farmers are busy and may be distracted.
"There are more criminals travelling out there in the rural areas this time of year," Orb said adding he believed there had been a recent spike, in some areas, of crime.
"We would like more RCMP presence, but if we can't get it in the short term we'll have to work with them with our programs that are available," Orb said.
"I don't think that the crime rate is up that high — it doesn't seem like it to us — but as the reports come in over the next few weeks we'll be able to get a better handle on that."
Orb said detachments typically share crime info with RMs and the data includes the number of calls and convictions.
RCMP decide where to station officers
In Saskatchewan, the Ministry of Justice provides funding for policing in areas that don't have municipal forces. The RCMP ultimately decides where their officers should be stationed.
The ministry said if there is a concern about an under-served community, the province is part of a collaborative effort to combat it.
"We'll work with [RCMP] F Division, we'll work with Public Safety Canada and we'll work with our rural partners to see what the needs are and to make sure we're resourcing accordingly," said Drew WIlby, a spokesman for the provincial ministry.
According to officials, there are currently 1,302 provincially-funded policing positions serving communities in Saskatchewan that do not maintain their own municipal police force. That figure includes a number of officers who provide additional policing support.
Here's how that breaks down:
- For municipalities under 5,000 people, there are 750 police positions.
- For municipalities over 5,000 there are 124 police positions.
- 174 officers are members of targeted units that benefit the province.
- 124 positions are associated with the First Nations policing program.
- 130 officers work in federal policing programs around Saskatchewan.
The recent photos of farmers with guns has also caught the government's attention.
"There are laws around proper gun storage," Wilby said. "There are laws around having those weapons in moving vehicles and we would expect everyone would abide by them."
Wilby said the ministry has discussions with both SARM and SUMA, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, on a regular basis to discuss crime and safety.
SARM's Orb said he recently met with RCMP members in Regina to discuss solutions for some of the frustrations in rural Saskatchewan.
Orb said SARM has a good relationship with the RCMP and will try and improve communication. He noted programs like Crimestoppers and the presence of community safety officers in some areas.
These officers deal with traffic offences and work as liaisons between the public and the RCMP. Orb said SARM is also discussing a re-launch of its rural crime watch.
The RCMP will make a presentation at SARM's convention in November and the Ministry of Justice will be at the annual gathering of rural leaders to answers questions as well.