The Alberta government says it will create a team of sheriffs to track down and arrest offenders accused or convicted of serious crimes.
The government says the Fugitive Apprehension Sheriffs Support Team will help police services throughout the province apprehend high-priority suspects and offenders.
Twenty positions are to be created by next March, with roughly half in Edmonton and the other half in the Calgary area.
Public Safety Minister Mike Ellis said Tuesday that there were 4,200 prolific violent offenders with outstanding warrants in Alberta as of February.
“Alberta is establishing this team to take away a threat that can affect any Albertan, regardless of the community they call home,” Ellis said at a news conference in Calgary.
“The success is going to come when we start to reduce those numbers from 4,200 to obviously a lower number.”
The province is spending $2 million on the program. Recruiting and training are to begin this fall.
Ellis said the team will free up police to focus on other priorities, such as ongoing criminal investigations and community policing.
He said when he was a police officer in Calgary, the priority was responding toa high volume of calls, and that hasn’t changed.
“They’ve actually increased and more and more is asked of our front-line officers each day. So we’re just trying to alleviate some of the pressures again of our folks, no matter where you are … to start to reduce some of these numbers.”
Alberta Sheriffs Chief Farooq Sheikh said recruits for the team will receive advanced training, including in surveillance, investigations and drafting search warrants. He said the officers will also be able to make arrests.
“We’re going to ensure that all of our staff, before they’re out there actively hunting for people, they’re trained and suitably equipped to handle what comes their way.”.
“We can go out there and target our most serious offenders … if we can take some of these people off the street and put them through the justice (system) and keep people safe, it’s going to be a positive step.”