Last week, Alberta’s NDP Justice Minister announced $10 million to fight rural crime. Our Official Opposition is glad to finally see some action on this file, after repeatedly raising the issue over the past two years.
The numbers are undeniable. Since 2011, crime rates in some rural communities have jumped by more than 250 per cent. Recently, Maclean’s magazine revealed that 12 of the top 50 most dangerous places in Canada are located in Alberta. Red Deer County, one of the most beautiful rural areas that I have the privilege to represent, ranks as number five on the list.
Unfortunately, the funding announced last week, while a good start, will not address all aspects of what has become a complex and emotional issue for Alberta families. The fact that the NDP thinks throwing money at the problem is an adequate response reveals a shocking lack of understanding. For example, the Minister announced funding for 39 new police officer positions. In theory, this is good news but if the Minister had bothered reaching out and talking to people on the ground in these communities, she would have learned that there simply are not enough RCMP trainees to fill current vacancies, let alone 39 more.
If the NDP wants to be taken seriously on this issue, its MLAs need to get out and actually visit rural Alberta. They need to meet with rural community leaders, victims, local crime watch volunteers, and the frontline police officers crying out for assistance.
For the past two years, this is exactly what MLAs from both United Conservative legacy parties have been doing. I have personally been to at least a dozen town hall meetings on rural crime, and it has given me a much better understanding of what we’re up against.
One common theme I’ve heard is deep frustration with our catch-and-release justice system. To begin with, far too few property crimes are fully investigated. Even when a criminal is caught, prosecuted, and convicted, all too often they are back on the street, victimizing another Alberta family, in short order. For these repeat offenders the criminal justice system is a joke. Simply hiring more prosecutors won’t solve the problem. Instead, the Justice Minister needs to get serious about working with her federal counterpart on meaningful changes to the Criminal Code.
We all know it’s time to get serious about addressing Alberta’s rising tide of rural crime.
Understanding the problem is the first step towards achieving lasting solutions. Unfortunately for the thousands of Albertans who have become victims of crime in recent years, this NDP government has yet to make an honest effort to truly understand what we’re up against.
Jason Nixon, United Conservative MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
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