Hintonites have been speaking up about the rise in property theft over the past year, and they’re ready to make a change.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Chris Murphy spoke at a standing committee meeting on Sept. 10 and presented data showing the climb of property crime overall in the last year, with a concerning 76 break-and-enters in 2019 to the date of the presentation.
Craig Lucas, as well as other locals who attended the meeting, has been a victim of theft and he is now taking action to get Citizens on Patrol running in Hinton.
“We need to work together to solve this. We as the RCMP will not do it by ourselves. We can’t. We will fail,” said Murphy at the meeting.
“If I don’t have the cooperation and partnership with the community, we will continue to have this problem year after year after year.”
A number of suspicious people went through the neighbourhood where Lucas lived in 2014, checking cars, and rummaging to find whatever they could take.
It got so bad that after Lucas chased them away in the middle of the night, one of the offenders figured out who he was and where he lived. Lucas received death threats from the offender, who ended up getting arrested and prosecuted.
“I went to every court appearance and did everything that I was asked and they ended up barring him from Hinton for the remainder of his life. He can’t come within 50 kilometres of the town,” said Lucas.
He hopes to show others that if residents stick to it and help out the RCMP as much as they can through reporting suspicious activity and filling out police reports that there are positive results.
After this happened he looked to join Citizens on Patrol in Hinton, but it fell apart due to lack of citizen involvement.
“I got involved when the crimes started picking up again, usually it seems like it’s a cyclical cycle directly involved with the oil field,” said Lucas, who previously worked in the oil field.
When crimes started to pick up again he contacted the president of the Alberta Citizens on Patrol Association (ACOPA), instead of complaining about the lack of support from the RCMP, he said.
After receiving approvals from the association and meeting with the RCMP, council, and the mayor, he’s ready to start receiving applications from citizens.
He added that Mayor Marcel Michaels hopes to be directly involved in the program as well.
“We’re screening out the unwanted people, so we’re not having criminals patrol the streets,” he said.
After citizens are screened and accepted, the group will meet to vote in a new board, and various members. A final meeting with ACOPA will be held before patrolling starts this fall.
“Currently, 45 people are interested and it seems to be growing every day,” said Lucas.
Some of the old members are returning to the group as well as newcomers.
They will work directly with the RCMP, through an RCMP liaison who helps to complete paperwork and file reports of suspicious activity.
“We get a direct number for RCMP to call when we see suspicious activity. We don’t have to go after hours through Edmonton dispatch,” said Lucas.
“We speak to our liaison who keeps us up to date on what’s happening in town, and we’ll have access to active crime maps showing the heightened crime activity areas.”
Members will be patrolling with their own vehicles, at different hours, and days, which will be kept confidential. Donations will help to fuel their vehicles, and Mayor Michaels told Lucas about possible grants that help programs like Citizens on Patrol.
“It’s a program that’s greatly needed in town right now, especially with the lack of RCMP members. They’re a little bit stretched thin and everyone likes to jump on the complain train and complain about how they do nothing,” said Lucas.
Lucas added that a big issue is people not reporting crimes or taking the time to fill out police statements.
These things are imperative when charging perpetrators and ensuring they don’t return to the community to commit the same crimes again.
“I really hope it starts to make people rethink their actions, knowing there’s people watching and following,” said Lucas.
“Hopefully with more members joining there will be more community involvement and you’ll start to see how busy the RCMP are and that they are doing the best they can.”
Anyone interested in joining Citizens on Patrol can submit their completed applications at the town office front desk. Download the application form from acopa.ca/start-citizen-patrol-group