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Hinton B&Es drop while rural numbers rise

Masha Scheele

Habitual offender management program seeing some successes

Hinton RCMP has met its goal of reducing break and enter incidents within the community this year, but break and enters in rural areas around Hinton have increased.

Staff Sgt. Chris Murphy of the Hinton RCMP shared some of their progress, statistics, and new initiatives during a virtual town hall on Oct. 21. Around 37 residents tuned in to ask questions and listen to the update.

“We should be listening to the community, and based on that feedback we should be using that feedback to select our objectives and our priorities for the upcoming year. We have to be very fluid in our approach because things can change, what is a priority or concern in March, may not be a priority or a concern in August,” said Murphy.

During a town hall in March, RCMP stated it was targeting a seven per cent reduction in break and enters in 2020 compared to last year, based on the feedback received from the community.

So far this year, the RCMP has responded to 42 break and enters, which is a reduction of 52 per cent compared to 2019. RCMP also responded to 14 break and enters in rural areas, compared to eight in 2019.

The clearance rate of these crimes has also increased, which means the rate of solving the crime and holding someone accountable.

In 2020, break and enters have a clearance rate of 23.75 per cent in Hinton and 25 per cent in rural areas around Hinton.

Murphy noted that Hinton is doing well in respect to clearance rates, and that Hinton had a higher clearance rate than other locations in the province.

Another target by the RCMP was community consultation,which means being engaged and listening, patrolling and interacting, as well as updating the community through a town hall event. Murphy said officers have been patrolling areas, and not waiting for complaints to be received. 

“Thus far in 2020, we’ve done 313 random proactive patrols in our rural area,” Murphy said.

Officers work with crime mapping to identify crime hotspots, which allows them to put resources in the right places before crime occurs.

One important initiative by the RCMP includes the habitual offender management program, where RCMP officers work with repeat offenders to address underlying issues 

Instead of being arrested, charged, attending court, potentially being incarcerated or being released, possibly reoffending, and cycling through the system again, RCMP works with them to break that cycle.

“There has been a variety of different means for this, it can be addictions, mental health, it could be unemployment, it could be a number of factors all together. And it’s us working with the offender to identify those, but then recognizing that the police aren’t the best people to address some of these issues,” said Murphy.

RCMP make referrals to the proper agencies in the community that have the ability to work with the individual, while the RCMP continues to hold them accountable. 

“We have seen success with this program midway through the year. We have two individuals that are still receiving our assistance and working with us to get themselves the treatment they need,” said sergeant Graham Gurski.

One individual is no longer in the program after taking advantage of RCMP assistance and is no longer committing offences in the community.

Unfortunately, another individual was not as receptive and is now incarcerated after another conviction, Gurski explained.

“We have three of four, 75 per cent, success rate right now with that program,” Gurski said.

Murphy shared that in 2019, there were 2643 traffic collisions in Hinton and 1876 in 2020, a 29 per cent decrease. He noted, there was an increase in rural traffic this summer.

An issue was brought to attention in regards to speeding on highway 16 near the Thompson Lake area, which is an area being monitored for speeding.

Gurski responded to a question about racing drivers between Hinton and Jasper and said the Hinton detachment monitors dangerous driving behaviour and also works together with an integrated traffic unit with Edson and the Western Alberta District, as well as partners from the Jasper detachment.

A question from the public addressed laced drugs and if there have been any overdoses or issues with laced drugs in Hinton. Murphy noted that there haven’t been any new issues but if they become aware of tainted drugs, a media release would be sent out. 

“If we notice a rise in overdoses, we get info out to the public as quickly as possible,”Murphy said.

When it comes to illegal cannabis, Murphy noted that as long as there is a demand, there will be a supplier, and that there are still people who continue to purchase illegal cannabis products.

RCMP has not seen an increase of concerns since legalization but it is bringing a new spotlight to the concerns of impaired driving. This has lead to additional training of police officers.

Other statistics presented in comparison to 2019 was a seven per cent reduction in person crimes, a 29 per cent decrease in property crime, a 42 per cent decrease in criminal code offences, a 43 per cent decrease in theft of motor vehicles, and a 39 per cent decrease in theft under $5000.

In rural areas covered by the Hinton RCMP, there was a 27 per cent increase in criminal code offences, one more persons crime, a 38 per cent increase in property crimes, six more break and enters, one less theft of a vehicle, and seven more thefts under $5000.

“Overall, we have some work to do in the rural area. The results right here in the community of Hinton are promising, again I think there is a number of factors at play and I hope that our initiatives and objectives have an impact on those numbers. There is no doubt that COVID is having an impact and has had an impact in respect to some of these numbers,” Murphy said.

Another increase has been in family violence related complaints, with 131 in 2019, and 173 in 2020. 173 complaints is a five-year high for the Hinton RCMP. 

Family violence also increased in rural areas from three in 2019 to 18 in 2020. Murphy noted that number has dramatically increased in the last two months, because during the initial months of COVID-19 those numbers had not climbed as quickly as anticipated.

Calls of suspicious behaviour in Hinton remain high and Murphy encourages anyone that sees suspicious people or vehicles to call the RCMP. This allows RCMP to act proactively.

Going into the winter months, RCMP urges people not to leave vehicles running outside with the keys inside as that creates an opportunity for criminals to take advantage. Don’t leave valuables in vehicles, or in visible areas.