By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
Although the official report on the feasibility of an Alberta provincial police service has not come in, Alberta’s justice minister is confident it will not only cost less than the current contract with the RCMP, but provide better service in rural Alberta.
Kaycee Madu, who also acts as Alberta’s solicitor general, held a town hall in Claresholm at the new town office and multi-use facility on July 23 to gather input on issues of rural crime.
It attracted citizens as well as municipal leaders from across Southern Alberta.
He said he came to listen.
“I look forward to our conversation tonight,” he said.
Long before he was justice minister and still minister of municipal affairs, rural crime was a concern.
Consequently, policies have begun to be put in place to deal with the issue.
He pointed to the new police funding framework which added $206 million to put more boots on the ground, that is more police on the streets.
RAPID response was also created, which gave fish and wildlife officers and sheriffs more authority to assist the police.
“All in an effort to make progress on this file,” Madu said.
Legislation has also been brought in to protect landowners who act to protect themselves, their families and property.
“We will not rest until we resolve the problem,” Madu said.
He stressed there should not be two sets of rules for people – rural and urban – but instead the same level of service where Madu lives in Edmonton or people receive in Claresholm.
“That must be the goal,” he said, adding rural crime is an on-going issue. “People must feel safe in their homes, in their communities.”
When he was first appointed as justice minister he met with judges and told them they must make the system work.
He also met with crown prosecutors and gave them the same message.
Madu said he will be bringing forth legislation he calls “The Right to Know Act”.
It will provide online, public criminal statistics on what judges are doing with cases and sentencing, and what the Crown is doing with prosecutions.
“Time for real action is now,” Madu said.
Then he opened up the floor to questions.
A woman from the Waterton area said she is part of a rural crime watch and observed there is a full system failure in the justice system.
The RCMP charges someone but prosecutors then say there is no room on the calendar or room in the court house.
Madu responded there is a back log and a lot of paperwork to block the system.
He is trying to free up time for crown prosecutors and police, and put processes in place to deal with minor offences electronically.
Reeve Maryanne Sandberg of the Municipal District of Willow Creek said the cost to municipalities has increased for policing.
Rural municipalities now have to pay a portion of policing costs, something they have never had to do previously, while municipalities with populations less than 5,000 also pay now when they did not before the new model was introduced.
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