The Stettler RCMP detachment hosted an open house at the Stettler Recreational Centre (SRC) March 22. Police officers present included, from left, Stettler RCMP Cst. Karine Bertrand, Stettler detachment commander S/Sgt. Jon England, England’s superior officer Supt. Pam Robinson who travelled from Leduc for the open house and guest RCMP officer S/Sgt. Scott Lande. ECA Review/S.SalkeldStu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Town of Stettler residents gathered at the invitation of their local RCMP detachment in an open house March 22 to learn more about the local police service and provide community feedback on where priorities should lay.

The open house, held at the Stettler Rec Centre, featured four members of the RCMP, Stettler detachment commander S/Sgt. Jon England, Stettler RCMP Cst. Karine Bertrand, England’s superior officer Supt. Pam Robinson who travelled from Leduc for the open house and guest RCMP officer S/Sgt. Scott Lande.

During a question and answer session with the roughly two dozen members of the public present, England was asked if any changes are coming to the way Stettler RCMP handles Mental Health Act (MHA) calls. 

England answered the RCMP has responded to the issue by developing rural crisis teams that pair a police officer with a crisis worker for such calls. He added that Stettler has access to this service from Wetaskiwin.

The ECA Review asked England how important victim services are to the Stettler region. 

“Very important,” responded England, listing off all of the services the organization offers here, including accommodation for those needing it, moral support in court proceedings and much more. 

When asked how RCMP would be affected if less or no victim services was available, England stated the RCMP’s workload would increase and police may rely on the community to help out.

A member of the public chipped in that he’d served as a victim services advocate for 10 years and it was very emotionally rewarding.

Another member of the public described an incident they observed near their home where a vehicle appeared to lose control and drive off the road late at night into a park and this witness wasn’t sure how to report it. 

England stated the incident could have been called into 911. 

Supt. Robinson encouraged the public in situations where something odd happens or the person doesn’t feel right about something, to call police. She added that Alberta RCMP also offer online reporting.

A business owner asked how common break and enters are in Stettler and who the culprits are. 

England was blunt in his answer. “It really depends on who’s out of jail,” said England. “Certain people have their M.O.’s of what they do.”

He noted burglars can travel from out of the community, from Calgary or Red Deer for example, to steal from rural areas where security may be less stringent and fewer people around. Both he and Robinson suggested crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) principles can help prevent theft, including things like better lighting and security cameras.

England also described conversations with rural residents where the resident may encounter a suspicious person or vehicle but the incident is not reported. He encouraged people to report suspicious encounters as police may be looking for that person. He added that the Stettler RCMP detachment intends to hold a Citizens on Patrol (COP) meeting soon.

Another business owner asked for advice on the shoplifting problem. England responded there are no initiatives in Stettler right now to address shoplifting but noted that when he worked in Red Deer the RCMP often met with business representatives to share information about repeat shoplifters. 

During discussion it was also noted counterfeit $50 bills had recently been passed in Stettler.

The ECA Review asked the RCMP what kinds of fraud are observed in Stettler region and what can be done to prevent it. 

England noted the RCMP regularly receive complaints about telemarketing scams where perpetrators try to steal money or financial details from people over the phone, or phoney cheque scams that often target hotels or restaurants in much the same way counterfeit cash targets retail stores.

England also warned about the “grandparent” scam, where scammers phone a senior citizen and pretend to be a grandchild in distress in order to steal substantial amounts of money. 

England pointed out scammers may suggest that police will come to their house to pick up money, which is a clear warning of fraud. “The RCMP are never going to come to your house to collect money from you,” said the S/Sgt.

Another member of the public asked England how much control the RCMP has over things like traffic safety improvements such as signal lights. England answered such things are generally in the hands of elected officials. Robinson added the RCMP can offer input into those decisions, though.

Previous year stats

England presented the crowd with statistical information about crime in Stettler and surrounding region in the most recent year available, 2021. 

He also discussed crime severity index (CSI), which is a value calculated from several factors such as sentencing severity and population.

England noted CSI for the Town of Stettler went up in 2020, but dropped in 2021. The County of Stettler’s CSI stayed much the same over that period.

Contributor’s to the Town of Stettler’s CSI numbers included break and enter, which was about 25 per cent, followed by fraud at about 12 per cent.

England also presented information on how different crimes are investigated by RCMP, pointing out crimes can be catalogued according to how much work has to be done to investigate them (“workload”). 

In the Town of Stettler for 2021 England noted major crimes by workload included manslaughter, mental health act calls, motor vehicle collisions (MVC) and mischief.

In the county he noted the list was similar but didn’t include manslaughter, while MVCs were a bigger factor.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 30, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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