New RCMP data-entry system aims to reduce rural crime in Alberta

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WATCH ABOVE: Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley joined RCMP members Tuesday for a tour of a new data-entry office at RCMP headquarters in Calgary. As Sarah Offin reports, the new system is allowing officers to spend more time in the community, rather than behind a desk – Nov 13, 2018

Eight months after rolling out its rural crime strategy, Alberta RCMP say progress is being made.

The RCMP is touting a new call-in data-entry system they say allows front line officers to spend more time in the communities they serve, instead of behind a desk doing paperwork.

Since February, about a dozen RCMP members have staffed a data entry office at RCMP headquarters in Calgary. They work with dispatch and input all the information from calls across the region.

The Police Reporting and Occurrence System pilot project allows front line officers to get information into the RCMP database by phone, without having to leave the community they are patrolling.

According to the RCMP, it means those officers are spending less time doing paperwork and more time on patrol.

“Just the other night… I was able to be out in a rural area that has a lot of property crime issues and I was able to sit out there for over three hours and work on my file work while I was doing it,” said Const. Lindon Green from the Morinville detachment.

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The pilot project has reduced the data entry time for RCMP front-line officers to 3 1/2 minutes from 30 minutes, which doesn’t include travel time.

“By using the data centre, our officers no longer need to travel back to their detachment to manually complete their report, meaning that officers can now spend more time in the communities and less time behind the desk,” Alberta RCMP Acting Commander John Ferguson said Tuesday.

“They can now input all the required information over the phone in less than four minutes. Once they complete the call they immediately return to their patrols.”

The information is entered into the RCMP database by civilian personnel.

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But at least one criminologist is raising concerns about the persistent need for more boots on the ground.

“You cannot just replace police officers with innovation. You need members. You need trained members doing the work,” said Ritesh Narayan, a criminal justice professor with Mount Royal University.

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“I think there might be some issues when it comes to the quality of policing and also the quality of reporting.”

Ferguson said the call-back model allows officers on the front lines to concentrate on emergency situations and to provide a visible presence in rural communities.

READ MORE: RCMP tout success of Alberta rural crime strategy

According to Statistics Canada, the rural crime rate has been climbing across the prairie provinces in recent years.

The province hopes the new system along with other initiatives undertaken in recent months will help address the ongoing concerns of rural residents.

— With files from Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press