For the first time since becoming the commanding officer of the Alberta RCMP, Todd Shean recently sat down with Global News to discuss the top issues impacting the force over the last year and one in particular stands out: rural crime.
Shean started his new job in May and is already bringing in a new plan of attack to address sky-high rural crime rates.
It’s been called an epidemic and between the home invasions, robberies, ATM grabs, gas and dash’s and property thefts, rural Alberta had more than it’s share of crime in 2017.
“There’s normally a small number of people that are responsible for a large portion of the crime that occurs within our respective communities,” Shean said.
He said he is implementing an idea he’s used successfully in eastern Canada, right here in Alberta.
To start with, he’s investing more into the intelligence division.
“Be it property crime, and who’s impacting us there, or be it the more sophisticated organized crime that affects us here in the province, I really feel you can be innovative in how you attack crime, but first you need to understand it,” Shean said.
It means officers will try to be one step ahead of the criminals.
But that may change the way victims interact with the RCMP.
“Maybe you’re not going to see that police car show up in your driveway at that particular time.”
However, Shean said the Mounties still want victims of crime to report it and that they’re interested in the details.
“That call is very important to us. It informs our intelligence databases. It informs the posture of our crime-reduction team. So versus having our officers respond to 20 calls for service, we have officers responding to the individual responsible for the 20 calls for service.”
As an example of this new strategy at work, Shean spoke about a string of rural bank robberies. He said the RCMP had a suspect, but not enough evidence to charge him. Instead, they used what they learned from the previous robberies to pinpoint the next bank he would target.
When the thief walked out of the bank with the stolen money in hand, he was immediately arrested.
But Shean said putting people behind bars isn’t a solution on its own.
“I still don’t believe that we can arrest our way out of a problem. A comprehensive crime-reduction program also means that we’re working with the other agencies. Can we identify the underlying issues why people are committing crimes – be it mental health, be it addictions.”
The commanding officer said he thinks Albertans will notice a drop in rural crime numbers within months.
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“We’re already seeing short-term results, but it’s going to take a little longer.”
Shean also addressed the RCMP’s handling of sexual assault cases, which had come under fire in 2017.
Within the police force, he said he makes it clear that he doesn’t take inappropriate actions lightly.
“There is zero tolerance for any misconduct or any type of behaviour in the RCMP with regards to sexual misconduct or harassment,” Shean said.
In terms of restoring the community’s trust when it comes to sexual assaults in the wider community, Shean admitted there’s still work to be done.
“We have to enhance our training to our officers. We certainly have to look at our policies and procedures,” he said.
“We certainly also need to ensure that we have a support mechanism there for a victim from the outset, during the investigation and even during the court process.”
Some of that work is already taking place.
“We’ve gone back to some of our old files that have been concluded with regards to unfounded sexual assaults and reviewed those files. As a result some of those files have been reopened.”
Shean is hopeful victims of these types of crimes feel they can trust the RCMP to be supportive.
“We haven’t done everything correctly, but we’re putting these steps in place to make sure that we learn from the past and we make sure on a go-forward basis, that anybody who is a victim of a sexual assault feels comfortable coming forward to the RCMP and that they’re very confident an investigation will be conducted.”