‘People are pulling guns’: Alberta justice minister hears stories of frustration, vigilante acts on rural crime tour

Click to play video 'Alberta Justice Minister visits Leduc on rural crime tour' Alberta Justice Minister visits Leduc on rural crime tour
WATCH ABOVE: The Justice Minister has been touring Alberta to hear concerns about rural crime. Tuesday, he was in Leduc, and the common theme is that people just don't feel safe. Sarah Komadina reports – Oct 16, 2019

Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer hosted a rural crime town hall meeting at the Leduc Civic Centre on Tuesday night, hoping to hear more about the crime issues in the area.

The minister’s tour kicked off in early September, and was initially launched to fulfill a promise the UCP made during the Alberta election.

“Albertans need to know that we are dedicated to funding the priorities that we campaigned on,” Schweitzer said.

“Many of the ideas that have come forward this last month are going to become new policy for this province,” he said.

READ MORE: Alberta justice minister to kick off tour to discuss rural crime in Bragg Creek on Thursday

The rural crime meetings were only set to take place during the month of September, but were extended to reach more communities.

Story continues below advertisement

Schweitzer says at many of the meetings, he’s noticed a frustration with what he describes as a “breakdown in the justice system” that has led to an increase in vigilante acts in rural areas.

“People are so frustrated with the justice system that they aren’t even calling [police] anymore,” Schweitzer said.

“We are at that point in rural communities where people are pulling guns, people are doing these steps that in many instances are not appropriate.”

Diane Donovan was at the Leduc meeting Tuesday, and said she no longer feels safe after thieves targeted her rural home two nights in a row, smashing the family television and making off with alcohol.

“These people committing these crimes, they know we don’t have policing full time,” Donovan said.

“We go to bed, we lock our doors, we alarm everything.

“We do everything we possibly can. We should feel safe when we turn off our lights at night and tuck our kids into bed.”

The former NDP government had previously announced $10 million in funding to fight rural crime in spring 2018, after dozens of rural crime victims pushed the government to help.

READ MORE: Alberta government suggests small rural areas pay for policing: NDP

Story continues below advertisement

In July 2018, Statistics Canada released data showing the rural crime rate continues to increase in the Prairie provinces. Alberta saw a 38 per cent higher rural crime rate when compared to urban crime rates.

Along with the minister’s rural crime tour, the UCP is also offering an online survey until Oct. 31, for those who cannot make the in-person events.

The government will then use the results of the town halls and survey to create a rural crime strategy.