Westman Recommendations to Combat Rural Crime

After five successful rural crime townhalls, I have submitted recommendations to the Public Safety Committee for their current study on rural crime, as per Motion 167, which was adopted by the House. The Committee has heard from expert witnesses on ways to improve rural crime prevention and to curb emerging crime rates, but I wanted to talk to Westman residents and local RCMP members directly, to hear what their ideas and recommendations were.

Most attendees at the rural crime townhalls encouraged the RCMP to be visible in the communities and to ensure that any vacant postings be filled as quickly as possible. There were many good ideas put forward at the townhalls to increase law enforcement presence in rural communities and to prevent crime from happening.
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The following recommendations were submitted to the Public Safety Committee:
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1. Speeding up RCMP staff allocations

The lag time between census data and crime statistics in determining RCMP resources is growing. Many communities have seen an increase in overall population or have seen crime rates increase, however the number of RCMP staffing allocations is slow to respond to emerging trends. The RCMP should work in conjunction with provinces and municipalities to eliminate any lag time between population or crime statistics while determining staffing allocations. Furthermore, no posting should ever be permanently eliminated due to it not being filled and there should be an emphasis on allowing an RCMP member to have a lifetime posting in a rural community, if they so wish.

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2. RCMP cost recovery for investigations
Currently, the RCMP bill municipalities for investigations that go above and beyond normal day-to-day operations. For instance, if there was a homicide in a smaller municipality, some of those costs to investigate that crime would be borne with the municipality. In most circumstances, that bill would be hard for the municipality to absorb without raising property taxes. Consideration should be given to small population centres to ensure that the costs for investigations is not downloaded onto the municipality.
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3. RCMP community presence
There is overwhelming consensus that residents expect RCMP members to have a presence in their community. As coverage areas have expanded, there has been a gradual consolidation of RCMP members living close to the main detachment for that geographic zone. In many smaller communities who have an RCMP barracks or living quarters, all efforts should be made to have RCMP members live and operate out of as many places as possible. The RCMP should ensure that all living quarters are fully occupied and upgraded where possible, to entice members to settle in smaller communities.
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4. RCMP recruiting
There was agreement among participants that it would be in the best interest of the community, to recruit local residents to be employed as RCMP members. The institutional knowledge and understanding of local issues and challenges is something that should be made a priority when staffing. Communities and municipalities should be engaged by the RCMP in order to recruit from rural areas that are chronically short staffed.
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5. RCMP time at hospitals and corrections centres
Currently individuals who are transferred to the care of a hospital or a corrections centre must be accompanied by an RCMP officer. In many cases, this involves a considerable amount of time as many hospitals are not located near rural RCMP detachments. This either results in an RCMP member being outside of their coverage area for a lengthy period of time and thus drastically limits response times or can lead to overtime. The RCMP should work in coordination with the provinces to explore new partnerships with properly trained individuals who can carry out these transfers, which would allow RCMP members to stay in their coverage area while on duty.
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6. RCMP rural crime task force
Alberta has seen some success in their RCMP task force that has been set up in the 4 regions of their province. Their model and organization could be replicated to deal with new emerging crime trends in specific areas of Manitoba and other rural areas across Canada. Providing the necessary resources, funding and RCMP members to such a task force could alleviate existing pressures. When waves of crime happen, it can be directly attributed to just a small group of individuals, therefore this RCMP rural task force could focus squarely on these suspects. A mobile RCMP rural task force could be assembled, with new RCMP assets and members, to quickly respond to new emerging threats or acts of crime.
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7. Increase use of technology
To enhance the speed of sharing information, particularly for smaller communities that do not have daily news, an application could be created for mobile devices for the RCMP to share information about crimes in real time. This application would be downloaded by local residents who would then have up-to-date information on criminal investigations, in which they would be encouraged to report any suspicious activity or any tips to solve crimes. This application would be designed in such a way where photos, videos and other evidence could be shared without having to commute to a detachment, which could be far away. Furthermore, this application would include a crime map and would share other relevant data on crime trends.
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8. Expanding powers of sheriffs, municipal bylaw and other peace officers
In many cases, RCMP members spend a considerable amount of time on vehicle accidents, traffic incidents and other lesser offences. Due to geographic challenges, it can take up a considerable amount of time to travel to an incident and therefore be unable to quickly respond to an urgent call. In conjunction with the provinces and municipalities, the RCMP should triage these sorts of calls and with proper training, expand their mandates and powers.
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9. Tax credits for RCMP Auxiliary and Rural Crime Watch volunteers
Many residents are wanting to get involved to prevent and deter crimes. In most cases, a very tangible way would be to organize a Rural Crime Watch group or Citizens on Patrol. These volunteer groups could provide an extra set of eyes and ears on the ground. Recognizing the costs and time associated with belonging to the aforementioned groups, all levels of government should encourage their growth. Volunteers with either the RCMP Auxiliary or a Rural Crime Watch should be eligible for a tax credit, in the same manner as rural volunteer firefighters.
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10. Criminal Code enhancements
Criminals specifically target rural residents as they know that law enforcement response times can vary and due to the remoteness of some properties, they are particularly vulnerable. Due to the sophistication and planning of these rural break and enters, along with property theft, it is apparent that there must be greater deterrents in the Criminal Code. The Criminal Code should be amended so that during sentencing, aggravating factors such as targeting rural communities due to their vulnerability, be taken into consideration and therefore individuals could face a stiffer sentence.
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11. Financial assistance for security systems
Security systems are a proven deterrent to criminal activity and improve response times of law enforcement. Due to the costs of installation and maintenance of security systems, some hesitate to absorb those expenses. A tax credit could be made available for property owners to help offset the costs of security systems and to encourage their installation.
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12. Crime prevention
Idle hands are the devils tool. In many circumstances, there is a direct link between irresponsible adolescent behaviour and then a lifetime of criminal activity. Not only is there a shortage of youth programs for rural communities, there is a lack of addiction services and support networks. The federal government should provide the necessary financial assistance and utilize social impact bonds to kickstart new crime prevention programs and addiction services for rural communities who are underserved.
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13. Permanent RCMP Criminal Code advisory board
There is nothing more frustrating for our RCMP members than to see a revolving door justice system. In many circumstances they know the individuals causing havoc in rural communities but feel that the criminal justice system has failed. Our RCMP members are on the frontline every single day and their experience and knowledge should be utilized. A permanent RCMP criminal code advisory committee, made up of members from across the country, should be established to advise and provide meaningful recommendations on necessary reforms to the criminal code. This will provide an opportunity for parliamentarians and Public Safety Canada to have unfiltered advice from frontline officers.

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