Okotoks: Town council defers decision on additional officer until next year
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012 06:00 am
There will be no additional RCMP officers in Okotoks this year, leaving in doubt the future of a team who has been focusing on a small group of repeat offenders who account for a large amount of crime in town.
The Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) began last summer as a pilot project when the local RCMP detachment found itself with three extra officers.
The three members of CRU created a list of 11 prolific offenders in town and turned their attention on them. They also began targeting repetitive crimes, such as vandalism, staked out where it is happening and were able to collar some of the people involved.
Sgt. Ian Shardlow of the Okotoks RCMP said the pilot project shows the benefits of reactive police work.
“The pilot project was a huge success in showing this is where we need to grow,” Shardlow said.
He also pointed to the recent arrest of a teen on their prolific offender list who was arrested in December on his third drug trafficking charge.
“It is more evidence in support of (CRU),” he said.
However, Okotoks town council turned down a request for an additional RCMP officer this year and a second officer in 2014. Each RCMP officer costs the Town $134,000.
Shardlow said he understands the Town faces budget pressures and hopes they will approve the position next year.
“I think we’ve convinced them of the need, we just need to find the money in support of it,” he said.
Shardlow said the reason CRU was formed was because the detachment is currently overstaffed. Members are awaiting transfer and could be moved out anytime, he explained.
“It may extend out a few months or half a year,” he said.
The Province funds the bulk of the cost for the additional officers. Shardlow said the hold up with some of the officers’ transfers is because they couldn’t sell their homes.
Okotoks Coun. Ed Sands said he is hopeful the detachment will be able to take some officers off general duty to maintain the CRU.
“If they lose those extra officers we hope they will staff it with internal resources,” Sands said. “The hard part is the RCMP don’t report to us. If it means changing the internal stuff that’s up to (Shardlow). We can’t tell them what to do.”
The detachment is usually understaffed and this year they will at least have their full complement, he said. The Okotoks detachment is made up of 24 officers, some of which focus on rural areas outside of the town.
“We are at complement for the first time in a long time,” Sands said.
In its 2013 operational budget council approved an additional municipal peace officer at a cost of just over $70,000.
Sands said for several years municipal enforcement team leader Tim Stobbs has asked for an additional officer and council felt that need was more pressing when looking at the current caseload of the RCMP and the local peace officers.
He said Okotoks residents definitely want to see the work being done to bust drug dealers in town, but issues like traffic and speeding are also on peoples’ minds.
“We have people on us all the time when it comes to speeding and school zones,” Sands said.