Bashaw town council heard from a regional RCMP commander that it’s not unusual for talk to circulate of detachments merging, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. The report was made at the May 16 regular meeting of council.
Town council heard a report from Stettler RCMP detachment commander S/Sgt. Bruce Holliday, who was previously non-commissioned office in charge of Bashaw detachment and has been helping out there until a new commander was found.
Holliday was presenting councillors with some stats and discussing some crime trends, then answered questions from councillors.
Coun. Kyle McIntosh asked Holliday to comment on the rumours circulating in the community that it’s possible the Bashaw RCMP detachment could be merged with the Stettler RCMP detachment.
Holliday responded that the RCMP is always looking at improving its operations to make them more efficient, especially nowadays with the rising inflation.
He noted it’s not uncommon for areas of rural Alberta similar to Bashaw to be mentioned in merger discussions. However, he added those decisions are made at higher levels within the RCMP.
Earlier in his presentation Holliday presented councillors with a report on crime stats from 2018 to 2022 and noted over that time span property crimes decreased by 32 per cent; he followed this up by noting persons crimes increased by 18 per cent.
Comparing 2021 to 2022, Holliday noted the Bashaw detachment saw a six per cent increase in persons crimes and a nine per cent increase in property crimes.
He stated that the Bashaw detachment is going to re-focus on proactive policing by engaging with the community and looking at suspects and locations that may be having a negative impact on the community.
He went on to say police are seeing some increases in crime rates as the COVID pandemic appears to be winding down; he also stated that RCMP tend to see an increase in theft in springtime too.
One issue he wanted to point out is vehicle theft, particularly where keys are left inside the vehicle. Holliday noted RCMP wanted to educate people about the risks associated with leaving keys in a vehicle.
Referring again to the crime stat increases in the Bashaw detachment area Holliday noted they aren’t at serious levels.
During discussion councillors asked how the Bashaw region compares to other parts of Alberta and Holiday stated they appear similar. “It’s not just a Bashaw problem,” said Holliday.
Coun. McIntosh asked if the RCMP was going to forward a written report to council which Holliday answered yes, a report is coming but he just got the stats May 16, the same day as the council meeting.
He also pointed out the importance of perspective, as some of the percentage increases can sound scary, but they’re based on the actual number of incidents which aren’t always that numerous.
McIntosh noted that some surrounding communities have had community engagement with the RCMP, such as “Coffee with a Cop” events, and asked if that was possible in the Bashaw area.
Holliday answered such events are entirely possible, but as Bashaw has just received an acting commander the RCMP is giving that person some adjustment time and added he understands people want to know what’s going on and how they can help.
He pointed out how helpful the public can be by stating a tip came into police recently about a suspect who was in or around Bashaw, and this person was suspected of being involved in a crime in Camrose.
With the help of surrounding detachments a suspect was arrested.
McIntosh referred to an incident last winter where two members of the Bashaw RCMP detachment helped save a person’s life on the highway and he was curious if they would be recognized in some way. Holliday responded the RCMP does have recognition programs and officers’ actions will be examined with the possibility of recognition if their actions fall under the guidelines.
Holliday’s presentation was closed by Mayor Rob McDonald who stated the people of Bashaw appreciate the RCMP’s efforts very much.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review