MD considering increased police presence

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Increased levels of rural crime have prompted the MD of Foothills to plan a public meeting and entertain discussions with the RCMP.

MD councillors met with Shane Ramteemal, of RCMP client services based in Edmonton, and detachment commanders from Okotoks, High River and Turner Valley on Jan. 31 to discuss the possibility of police service enhancement.

“The objective is you have your provincial police service that provides a level of service to your rural area,” said Ramteemal. “If you have a desire for the RCMP to do something specific in your area, the enhanced policing program is there for you, to add above and beyond to what’s already there.”

Currently, the MD of Foothills is serviced by three regular members out of High River, six out of Okotoks and 12 out of Turner Valley, he said. Those members are provided by the Province through its contract with Public Safety Canada at no direct cost to the communities.

However, there is an option for the MD to enter into a contract with the Province to bring on additional RCMP members who would serve for a minimum of three years and be assigned solely to the rural community.

The cost to the municipality would be $156,300 per RCMP officer under the enhanced policing program, he said. That accounts for the Province’s 70 per cent share of the cost per officer, and the federal government covers the balance.

“If you go down that road… any tickets that member writes the revenue comes back to you,” said Ramteemal.

The first step in determining whether the additional RCMP members are necessary for the MD will be a needs assessment, he said. It could be as simple as an informal discussion with local detachments to talk about rural needs, he said.

From there, an agreement would be struck with the Province, then the Operations Strategy Branch of the RCMP would work out the details of the contract position with the MD, he said.

“If you want a certain amount of time devoted to traffic enforcement, or you want a school resource officer and you want a specific amount of programing done in schools, we would get into the descriptive part in that agreement as to what the roles and responsibilities would be,” said Ramteemal.

The process of filling an enhanced policing position could take up to a year, he said.

Reeve Larry Spilak said MD council hasn’t made any decisions about entering into a policing agreement, and the discussion will likely wait until after a public meeting planned for April.

The meeting will be held at the Foothills Centennial Centre and will include the Justice Minister, the RCMP, MLAs Wayne Anderson and Pat Stier, Foothills MP John Barlow and executive members of the three rural crime watch associations in the MD, he said.

“The whole idea is this: first of all to give the RCMP and the crime watch people and anybody who wishes to speak the opportunity to talk about what has been happening and what future plans are, and then to open it up to the public to get some ideas of what they may have,” said Spilak.

He said he believes it’s necessary to increase the police presence in the MD to deter criminals. However, he said it’s important to wait until after the meeting so council and the RCMP can hear what residents have to say.

The $156,300 price tag per member would have to come out of taxpayers’ pockets, he said, so residents need to provide input before any decision is made.

“I guess the question is, is it worth it to the ratepayers or not?” said Spilak. “Would they like to pay an additional amount to have this extra security, or would they rather get more proactive themselves? That’s really the question that’s up in the air here.”

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