Red Deer’s top cop is confident our city is heading in the right direction when it comes to tackling crime issues.
Supt. Ken Foster has been at the helm of the Red Deer RCMP detachment for 13 months. He admits keeping Red Deer safe is a challenging task for him and his officers, noting they receive about 55,000 calls for assistance each year.
“We can’t be everything to everybody. There’s not an unlimited basket of money or resources available to us,” Foster points out. “So we have to work more effective and more efficiently.”
One of Foster’s biggest priorities over the past year has been to crack down on repeat offenders.
“More focus on our habitual offender management, those most prolific offenders that are doing the inordinate amount of crimes. We’ve been pretty successful with that,” he says. “We may not catch everybody for every crime, but I’m pretty satisfied that we catch most criminals and charge them with something at some point.”
Foster says it’s important to not only arrest offenders but also to make rehabilitation services available to those who need them.
“Simply warehousing people, while it provides some satisfaction and gives us a break for a while, is not solving the problem,” he notes.
That leads into something Red Deer and the entire province have been struggling with over the past couple of years, the opioid crisis. Foster is confident it’s a challenge that will eventually be overcome.
“This isn’t strictly a policing issue, this is a society issue and we all need to get behind it and deal with [it],” he points out. “It’ll take some time, but like some of the other crises we’ll get ahead of it.”
Red Deer recently made headlines, again, by ranking fifth in the Maclean’s magazine list of the “Most Dangerous Places in Canada.” Foster says he takes issue with how the list is compiled and presented.
“I take it personally, as do most of our officers,” he says. “The use of the word dangerous makes for good media. It’s a great adjective to sell a notion.”
Foster says property crimes are a big factor in the Crime Severity Index that Maclean’s uses for its rankings. He feels it’s unfair to associate property crimes with the word dangerous, noting persons crimes in Red Deer are trending downward.
Vehicle thefts continue to drive property crime stats in Red Deer upward. Foster says residents are all too often making it easy for thieves by leaving their vehicles unlocked and unattended.
“We have to record these vehicles left running with keys in it as a crime stat. That’s almost unfair because you’re giving your vehicle away to a certain degree, and we just can’t prevent that.”
Foster is well aware there is a growing conversation about Red Deer replacing RCMP with a municipal police force. While he says it’s a good conversation to have, Foster, as you’d expect feels RCMP still provide Red Deer with its best policing option.
“What is it you think you’re going to accomplish by having a different colour stripe on the leg of a police officer?” he asks. “Policing is policing. Most of what we do, most of the processes and steps we take are driven by court decisions and what’s required by the courts.”
As local Mounties continue working hard to make the community safety, Foster encourages residents to take an active role as well.
“I think they are already,” he feels. “Be engaged, take some ownership over your own personal and property safety, and look for ways of how we can support law enforcement.”
Foster says he is proud of the work Red Deer Mounties have done and continue to do every day to make our city a safer place.
“It’s a dangerous job. We’ve had several officers rammed this year. We’ve had attacks on our officers. They’re dealing with all sorts of nasty substances out there, lots of gun calls. It is dangerous, but they love what they’re doing and they truly do have the citizens in mind.”
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