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RCMP partners with community watch groups to deter crime in rural Alberta

WATCH: Local community groups in southern Alberta are helping law enforcement agencies crack down on crime. As Malika Karim reports, they're proving to be an added asset to help police extend their watch and reach across the region.

Fort Macleod RCMP say they’ve seen a rise in property crimes over the past five years, and in town, they’re seeing so-called “crimes of convenience.”

“A lot of the time it’s just going through vehicles, street by street by street,” said Sgt. Bryan Mucha with the Fort Macleod RCMP. “Because everything is closer in town, it becomes, now, opportunity.”

But in rural areas, police say more crimes are targeted.

READ MORE: Picture Butte revives rural crime watch association

“When people or criminals are looking at that property there, they’re saying, ‘OK, is there something of value in there?'” Mucha explained. “Whether it’s a house or whether it’s parked equipment in a field.”

Mounties say offenders will often scope out their targets during the day, before making their move at night.

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“Tools and RV batteries, or batteries from buses that have been parked in a field, or from farm equipment that might be parked in a field overnight,” Mucha said, listing some of the more attractive items criminals will target. “These types of things are being stolen, they’re all [liquidable].”

The RCMP have been working in partnership with community groups to help extend their eyes and ears into the region.

“Rural Crime Watch started to assist farmers in the rural areas to protect their property,” said Conrad Van Hierden, zone one director of the Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch.

“The police can’t be at everywhere, so rural groups have started. There [are] 65-70 rural crime watch associations in the province.”

READ MORE: Alberta man charged after Mountie dragged by car during attempted traffic stop

Another community group, Citizens on Patrol, is also helping the RCMP in Fort Macleod, most recently to locate a missing person.

“Potentially, without their assistance, we would have had our resources out there and maybe nothing else,” Mucha said.

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But even with the addition of community groups working to deter crime, volunteers and police say it’s still important to report suspicious activity and take steps to ensure you don’t become a target.

“Essentially what we’re looking for is for people to protect their property,” Mucha added.

“If you have tools, if you have small equipment with serial numbers, record everything so you have it when it does go missing,” Van Hierden advised.

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Both the Rural Crime Watch and Citizens on Patrol are looking to add to their membership as part of their ongoing efforts to deter crime in the region.

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