Gasoline Alley businesses are banding together in an effort to rid themselves of the pestilence that is rural crime.
Fifteen businesses on the west side of the QEII, from Turple Bros at the north end to Fas Gas at the south end, are using the ‘Great Neighbours’ concept to cover each other’s back.
Brenda Neufeld, Turple Bros co-owner and GM, is the group’s Block Connector and says a lack of deterrent has helped lead to crime becoming such a big problem.
“A lot of it comes down to having good morals in the first place, but the court system seems to be where there aren’t a lot of ramifications for the criminals,” she says. “It’s taking too long to get them to the court system and there are too many of them just getting a slap on the wrist.”
Neufeld is frustrated, but she says the reality is they just have to manage it. She also believes ensuring there is support for kids in troubled homes is where crime prevention can be bolstered.
Floyd Mullaney is a former RCMP officer and currently a director with Red Deer and Lacombe Rural Community Crime Watch. He went door to door last fall alongside Neufeld to garner the support from nearby business owners. Businesses met as a group once and will meet again when it’s called for, he says.
Mullaney says there are certain things that just aren’t going to work in reducing criminal activity.
“We're not going to arrest our way out of this one no matter how we play it. If we target one bad guy, there are 100 in the lineup waiting to take his spot,” he says. “Throwing more money at it just doesn’t work. More police officers? You want to build bigger jails? Well you can keep filling them up. They're over-full right now.”
Mullaney says crime prevention isn’t as much in the RCMP’s purview today as it used to be, so the only advice he can offer is for people to be decent neighbours.
“If you see something that is not right, report it to the proper authorities,” he implores. “That's all we want to do. It’s not about going out and confronting anybody.”
This use of the Great Neighbours program, an initiative of the Red Deer and District FCSS, is the first time it’s been done by a commercial district, as opposed to a residential neighbourhood.
Nora Smith, Community Mobilizer with Great Neighbours, says the action being taken by the Gasoline Alley group is a compliment to the program she has a part in overseeing.
“We don’t focus on crime. That’s the interesting thing about Great Neighbours. Crime prevention is a side benefit of getting to know your neighbours,” she points out. “The beautiful thing about it being in that business centre is that it is building community spirit. It’s a huge benefit that you'll have increased security, but you’ll also have wonderful relations with your neighbours and increased business.”
Red Deer County Division 2 County Councillor Jean Bota is pleased to see action being taken, saying there is strength in numbers.
"We can't all be acting individually or complaining individually, we have to go together as a group,” she says. “It's just basic stuff, but it really is important. It's not just crime-related issues, they might have problems with roads or who knows what?”
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