For weeks, frustrations have been bubbling over in rural Saskatchewan related to crime and the way things are being handled by police. In response, farmers in central Saskatchewan have begun to mobilize and say they will take matters into their own hands.
At this point, “Farmer’s with Firearms” has over 3,500 likes after being created sometime in September.
On Thursday, RCMP held yet another news conference to address concerns that some areas are becoming the wild west but was this presser any different than the ones held previously?
For 40 minutes, the RCMP was hammered with questions regarding crime in Saskatchewan’s country-side and what they’re doing to stop it.
“We know that people are feeling frustrated when their property is stolen, we understand that and don’t want to minimize it but our first priority will always be responding to calls where people are in danger of being hurt or killed,” said RCMP Supt. Mike Gibbs, commander of the central district.
“We investigate every complaint we receive but between our resourcing level, the volume level and priority of calls and the vast distances our members have to deal with – it can take some time to respond.”
According to Gibbs, Saskatchewan has one of the highest crime rates in the country and that it’s on rise. While he confirmed rural crime is a component of that, he would not provide media with exact numbers detailing the extent of the problem.
Nor would Gibbs provide concrete answers as to the number of RCMP members at the Rosetown detachment.
It’s the detachment that received a 911 call on Monday, Sept. 19 of three masked suspects armed with hand guns on a grid road outside of Fiske, Sask.
Officers from the Rosetown, Kindersley, Eston, Kerrobert, Unity, Biggar, Swift Current Rural and North Battleford Rural RCMP detachments responded to the call in search of the suspects and vehicle.
“The follow-up investigation is still actively going and we’re hard at work trying to find out what happened there.”
On Wednesday, Global News spoke to the family who reported this incident to police.
They said that they are no longer answering the door with open arms and the coffee on. Instead, the family says they are peeking through the blinds, locking their doors and are taking measures to increase their security.
They say they wouldn’t deem the incident a theft, rather a threat to their personal security.
Others in the area appear to be feeling the same way as farmers patrol grid roads for suspicious activity and sleep with guns by their bedside.
“We are aware of reports of rural residents carrying firearms. Carrying guns in anticipation of or preparation for a confrontation isn’t safe for anyone,” Gibbs said.
“We don’t want anyone facing potential criminal investigations.”
On Thursday, RCMP Supt. Kris Vibe said the force doesn’t have the resources to be anywhere, at anytime in rural Saskatchewan.
“What we do have is a number of front-line police officers and that’s 924,” Vibe said.
“As of September 15th, 2016 of those 924 positions we had 11-and-a-half positions vacant.”
At times some of these numbers can seem low but at certain times, in certain places, detachments are hit by a perfect storm and RCMP find themselves short.
Plans and provisions are in place to address these shortages, according to Vibe, and that it is vital for the public to continue working with the police.
“If there is crime, we encourage them to report so that we do have accurate stats and we can deploy our resources where they need to be.”
According to Gibbs, strategic crime mapping is underway and there is a focus on supports including the possibility of working with city policing agencies such as the Saskatoon Police Service and Regina Police Service.
Above all, Gibbs hopes to restore faith among rural residents and says people need to call police when they are in trouble.
“We’re committed to work with the public, we always have been,” Gibbs said.
“We need to work together to combat this issue and that’s what we’re trying to do.”