United Conservatives Release Recommendations to Combat Rural Crime

CALGARY, AB: The United Conservatives today released an in-depth report on the crime epidemic that has been plaguing rural communities across Alberta for more than three years.

The report summarizes the feedback received at dozens of town hall meetings, analyzes the most recent crime statistics, reviews relevant legislation and policies at various levels of government, and incorporates interviews with law enforcement personnel and other key actors in the system. The result is a set of recommendations that take into account the multitude of factors that have combined to create this crisis.

“I want to thank our Rural Crime Task Force for the work they did to get to the heart of this complex issue,” said United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney. “These are thoughtful recommendations that go well beyond short-term, band-aid solutions to drive meaningful change.”

The recommendations focus on concrete actions that can be taken to strengthen police response capability, effectively address the problem of repeat offenders, improve data collection, combat court delays, improve services for victims, strengthen crime prevention efforts, and reduce property crime in rural communities.

“The fact of the matter is that families from across rural Alberta still don’t feel safe in their own homes,” said United Conservative Justice Critic Angela Pitt. “The NDP thinks that throwing money at the problem is an effective solution but there are long-standing, systemic issues that must be dealt with before meaningful improvements can be made. These recommendations go a long way towards achieving that goal.”

“As a former police officer, I have long been frustrated with deficiencies in our justice and policing systems that deny justice to victims and allow criminals to go free without punishment,” said United Conservative Solicitor General Critic Mike Ellis. “I am proud of the work the United Conservative Caucus has done to consult broadly with Albertans and thoughtfully consider innovative and long-term solutions. It’s something this NDP government should have done a long time ago.”

Backgrounder – UCP Rural Crime Task Force recommendation highlights

Strengthen Police Response Capability

  • Create a provincially regulated police response system that would link all enforcement agencies to expedite assistance for citizens and facilitate interjurisdictional cooperation.

  • Educate Albertans on the best numbers to call for crime-related complaints in their area, what details to provide, and the complaint process if service is not provided as required.

Repeat Offenders Policy

  • Develop a policy that deals specifically with repeat offenders in order to ensure they are dealt with consistently and effectively across the entire system.

  • Encourage increased use of electronic monitoring of high-risk and repeat offenders.

  • Establish a high-risk offenders unit in each judicial district and dedicate resources to dealing specifically with these cases.

  • Amend the Crown Policy Manual to require prosecutors to produce full and complete criminal records at bail hearings.

  • Lobby the federal government to make it a crime to breach the conditions of parole or statutory release, as is currently the case for bail or probation breaches.

  • Lobby the federal government to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to keep offenders that breach parole or conditional release requirements behind bars.

Combatting Court Delays

  • Establish a digitally secure electronic evidence disclosure database that will share evidence and forensic reports more efficiently.

  • Require basic disclosure by police and prosecutors by first court appearance.

  • Increase resources and expedite the decision-making process for diversion programs.

  • Consider establishing temporary court facilities and hire additional prosecutors to deal with and eliminate backlogs in the system.

Data collection and public transparency

  • Work closely with law enforcement agencies to improve crime data collection.

  • Introduce the Public’s Right to Know Act, which would require an annual report to the Legislative Assembly containing detailed provincial crime statistics.

Improving Victims’ Services

  • Review the services available to victims of crime in Alberta and the usage of the Victims of Crime Fund.

  • Explore the creation of a Victims’ Ombudsman Office to advocate on behalf of victims.

  • Raise awareness of the opportunity for rural communities to make community victim impact statements to be taken into account during sentencing.

  • Amend the Crown Policy Manual to require prosecutors to seek restitution orders in defined circumstances, including rural property crime cases.

  • Take steps to improve the collection of medical and forensic evidence in rural communities.

Crime Prevention

  • Strengthen the relationship between the government, law enforcement agencies and local community crime prevention organizations.

  • Encourage the use of technology and signage for crime prevention purposes.

Protection of Property

  • Educate the public on their rights and responsibilities when it comes to defending loved ones and property.

  • Require Crown prosecutors to consider vulnerabilities specific to rural areas when considering prosecution of property owners who acted in self-defence.

  • Lobby the federal government to amend sections 34 and 35 of the Criminal Code, as well as sentencing guidelines, to include rural vulnerabilities in the existing list of relevant circumstantial factors.