After an eight-year hiatus, a southern Alberta rural crime watch group is officially up and running again.
It was a packed room Thursday night at Picture Butte’s Community Centre where residents learned more about the organization.
The Picture Butte & District Rural Crime Watch hosted its first public meeting since the group was rebooted last year.
Police in the region said rural crime was an issue in 2017, but it took a small dip last year.
WATCH: Picture Butte revives rural crime watch association
However, RCMP Sgt. Tom Howell said having a small police force covering a large area can be challenging.
“We simply can’t be everywhere at once in a large detachment area,” he said.
“We need our citizens to assist us, to be involved, to be our eyes and ears out there additionally to what we have and it can only benefit everybody.”
Howell added that developing a partnership between police and the community watch organization will only help solve and prevent more crime in the area.
“When things happen in the community of a criminal nature, they know that they can trust us to move forward and try to solve the crime, or educate the public in preventing these things from happening.”
Rural crime rates increased nearly 25 per cent between 2012 and 2017, causing concern for many in the region.
However, Mounties and Alberta crime watch groups agree that the RCMP’s rural crime reduction strategy is slowing that trend.
The Picture Butte group said the more citizens get involved, the safer their communities could be.
“People are being affected by some of these crimes. So then it becomes very close to them and they want to know, ‘What can I do?’ Or, ‘What can I do to deter? And if it does happen, where do I go?’” said the organization’s vice-chair Wilf Scholten.
The group is looking to include some new technology to keep their members in the loop, including a system known as One Call, which sends all the members notifications about potential criminal activity in their area.
Picture Butte Crime Watch is intending to host two meetings a year and hopes to expand their efforts to encompass other small communities nearby.