Rural Alberta community banding together to combat crime

By Laine Mitchell (Twitter: @Laine_Mitchell)
November 17, 2017 - 7:00am

The chairperson for Tomahawk's Rural Crime Watch Society is asking for an increase in police presence as the community bands together to help fight crime.

The hamlet of less than 65 residents has been hit countless times by criminals over the past year, from break and enters to stolen motor vehicles to gas and dashes at the local service station. 

June Leach says 45 people are a part of the local crime watch society, and has seen a spike in membership this year. She attributes that to residents being fed up and wanting to take matters into their own hands.

"Everybody is very serious about it. They watch each other’s houses really well now. They've stopped people on the road asking if they were lost or why they are out in the area, especially when they are on dead end roads," says Leach.

She says people are also scared because they aren't sure when they'll be next, and many have started to carry guns to protect themselves against thieves. 

"The thieves out here are getting bolder and bolder and they are actually carrying weapons themselves," says Leach. "The people out here are at the point where they are not going to care what happens to the people breaking in."

Long-time Tomahawk area resident Carol Hilts says she can't recall seeing crime like this in her community over the past 45 years.  

"It seems to be getting worse. You can't trust anybody anymore," Hilts said. 

She owns a business in the hamlet and has been broken into multiple times this year, with two thefts occurring this month alone. In one case her store took a serious blow after $12,000 worth of stolen goods and damage to her building was caused after a robbery.

Hilts added that the community has really started to look out for one another when a suspicious vehicle or person is in the area. 

The Drayton Valley RCMP Detachment responds to a majority of the calls coming out of Tomahawk, but with 15 constables tasked with patrolling such a large jurisdiction Corporal Bryan Notheisz says it sometimes can't be done. 

"We just cannot make it out there at times, it's just not feasible," said Nothseiz. He recalled times where he was responding to a crime that was nearly 100 kilometers away from Tomahawk, and was not able to make it to an additional call there due to the distance. 

Leach says she has been in contact with the mayor as well as councilors regarding crime in the community, and has been told that they will meet with officers to see if a greater police presence is possible.

She also would like to see something like Citizens On Patrol come to fruition in the community as the holiday season approaches. 

Mayor of Parkland County Rod Shaigec was reached out to but was unavailable for comment. 

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