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Crime

Picture Butte revives rural crime watch association

WATCH: Community members in Picture Butte are exploring different ways of combatting rural crime. As Malika Karim explains, that includes the revival of a crime watch association.

RCMP are hoping to increase community involvement when it comes to monitoring and cracking down on rural crimes.

On Monday evening, Sgt. Tom Howell presented the idea of creating a Rural Crime Watch Association in Picture Butte and Lethbridge County.

READ MORE: Communities across Alberta set to discuss rural crime at convention

The area previously had a rural crime watch association but it fizzled out eight years ago due to limited community involvement.

“Given the upswing in rural crime and the interest in doing something to assist the communities, we’re trying to … reactivate the program,” Howell said.

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Rural crime rates across Alberta are up 23 per cent over the past five years, with theft and property crimes topping the list.

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READ MORE: Rural residents worried about crime and property rights: ‘Landowners are free prey

“Fuel theft, batteries, copper wire off of the tractors, ATVs that are out on the farm yard; farm yards are vacant at this time because the farmers are out in different fields working, so people are driving around scoping out farms and looking for trouble or mischief or things they can steal,” said Conrad Van Hierden, the vice president of Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association.

At Monday’s meeting, community members voted to re-activate a rural crime watch for the region, in an attempt to aid officers dealing with rural crimes.

READ MORE: Rural Crime Reduction Project provides support to central Alberta RCMP

Eight people put their names forward to start a board and be part of the Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association.

“It’s a good thing,” Walter Ankermann said.

“Between the RCMP and the rural crime watch, neighbours helping neighbours, neighbours watching out for neighbours … that’s the whole idea.”

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The rural crime watch association will work alongside the RCMP.

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Members won’t need to patrol or monitor specific places but will be an extra set of eyes and ears for police.

READ MORE: Alberta announces $10M, 39 RCMP officer positions, to fight rural crime

“Given the technology nowadays it’s very easy to connect,” Howell said. “With two smart phones, group texting, emails — it is going to be much easier than it has been in the past.”

Once formed, the new Picture Butte association will be part of 56 other rural crime watch groups in the province, comprised of more than 11,000 people.

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