Police in central Alberta are dealing with a rising case load and, in some cases, it’s becoming overwhelming. According to Red Deer RCMP Supt. Scott Tod, members at his detachment have case loads much higher than other RCMP members across the province.
“It’s almost double,” Tod said.
According to Tod, the average Alberta RCMP member deals with 95 cases in a year. In Red Deer, the average case load is 175.
“It’s not only that calls for service are increasing; the complexity of the investigations are increasing,” said Tod.
Red Deer has no city police and is the largest municipality in Alberta that is patrolled by RCMP.
Tod says he is concerned about the work/life balance of his members.
“To put it in perspective, 40 per cent of our calls in any given day or month are Priority 1 or Priority 2 calls – that’s a fairly high proportion of serious calls out of the total,” Tod said. “You factor in that they’re in court on their days off, you factor in training and all the other requirements, it certainly does have an effect on their work/life balance.”
Red Deer City Council recognizes the pressure that police officers are under. Council recently earmarked $1.1 million in the 2016 operating budget to hire six more officers.
“This year I don’t think it’s necessarily enough,” Mayor Tara Veer said. “We are trying to be sensitive to the economic normal, the new economic normal we are navigating through.”
Still, Veer says the city is dedicating about one-third of its budget to policing and public safety.
“In the City of Red Deer we are no longer just going to engage in reactive policing,” Veer said. “Our ultimate objective is to free up officer time so that we can engage in proactive policing and get ahead of the curve.”
Other central Alberta detachments are also seeing a rise in crime rates.
“We’re seeing things we didn’t used to see,” said Staff Sgt. Gary Rhodes with Sylvan Lake RCMP.
In Sylvan Lake, personal crime is up 20 per cent, property crime is up 18 per cent and overall crime is up 15 per cent.
“What’s the cause of that? Well it’s partly economics and drugs. Those tend be the two dominant reasons for those types of crimes,” Rhodes said. “I think the public is a little bit unnerved.”