City to weigh pros and cons of public crime mapping

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
October 13, 2018 - 5:05pm Updated: October 14, 2018 - 9:51am

Public crime mapping could be coming to a town or city near you.

This week, Alberta RCMP unveiled its new crime map tool which allows Mounties to engage directly with citizens on what’s happening in their own neighbourhoods.

In participating municipalities, maps will show criminal incidents reported to RCMP within the last 14 days, and that includes anything from thefts involving motor vehicles, break and enters, theft over and under $5000, mischief and missing persons.

But is Red Deer interested in this?

“There’s interest in it. To what level I can’t say yet,” says Paul Goranson, Director of Protective Services with The City of Red Deer.

“It’s come up at different times over the years with council. Some of the proponents for it argue that it gives people good information and that there’s potential for crime in their neighbourhoods. It creates an awareness.”

If it were to be implemented in Red Deer, it would likely have to receive council approval first. Over the next few months, a group which includes The City, local school boards, Alberta Health, Mental Health, Justice and First Nations representatives will make a recommendation, Goranson explains.

“Those that think that it isn’t a good thing are worried it could create stigmas for certain areas in cities where there is a high level of crime. It can create a stigma that isn’t necessarily fair,” he adds.

Red Deer RCMP Superintendent Ken Foster says the crime mapping the detachment has done internally over the years has worked well.

“We've seen crime on a steady decrease here for the last three quarters and I’m hopeful for the last quarter,” Foster says. “A lot of that is attributed to the fact that we're mapping where the crime is happening and we can direct our efforts in those areas. It’s very valuable to us in directing us on where we should be.”

In 2015, city councillor Buck Buchanan proposed that The City implement public crime mapping. Council voted unanimously to explore the idea and an ad hoc committee was formed to see how the idea could fit into The City’s community safety strategy.

Three years later, Buchanan stands by what he was previously calling for.

“110 per cent,” he exclaims. “There are lots of bigger places than Red Deer -- for example Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona -- that do it regularly. People are interested in that type of information. Why would we not want to get that information into the hands of the public?”

Buchanan also isn’t buying the argument about creating stigmas.

“They may be somewhat concerned from a realtor’s perspective, but I would suggest that once you start seeing the information, no one neighbourhood is worse than another,” he says. “I think what folks will realize is that things in your supposedly better neighbourhoods can be equally as bad if not worse.”

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