Not a sound could be heard in Town Council chambers on Monday evening, aside from the voice of Sylvan Lake RCMPDetachment Commander, Staff Sergeant Gary Rhodes, as he addressed an attentive audience in a special report to Council on crime.
Rhodes, who had been asked by Council to prepare the report, brought before the mayor and council an extensive outline and overview of crime in both Sylvan Lake and Central Alberta over the past five years.
He began by stating perhaps one of the most alarming statistics in his presentation was the rise of vehicle thefts in Sylvan Lake over the past five years – having gone from 17 in 2011 to 108 in 2015. Vehicle thefts went from 76 in 2014 to 108 in 2015.
Rhodes described the increase as a ‘crime epidemic’ but added the statistics are not unique from other surrounding communities.
“It has gone through all of Central Alberta and hit Calgary and Edmonton as well,” said Rhodes. “Just referring to this area we live around Red Deer – it has been a real epidemic over the last year – mainly the theft of trucks, specific types of trucks. Most of the trucks that are stolen are unlocked – a good chunk of them have the keys in them and they’re running.
“There are organized crime groups in Central Alberta that are specifically targeting certain types of trucks and cars.”
While many of the vehicles end up in chop shops or sold out of province, he explained some have even been traced out of country.
Council heard how a regional task force had been put in place to help address the Central Albertan epidemic.
“During the past year we have had great success in putting a dent in the property crimes in Central Alberta,” said Rhodes. “TheRCMP put together a Task Force made up of personnel from The City of Red Deer Detachment and all the surrounding RCMPDetachments (Sylvan Lake, Blackfalds and Innisfail). Large quantities of stolen property have been recovered and numerous crime rings have been dismantled. In one search in the Sylvan Lake area we had 90 RCMP officers on site for a large search on an acreage. It is our intention to keep the Task Force up and running for the foreseeable future.”
Overall crime has increased by 15% over the past year, however other communities such as Lacombe have witnessed an even larger rise in overall crime weighing in at an increase of 20%.
Rhodes reiterated the economy is likely to blame for the rising rate in crime, with those out of work needing a way to supplement their income.
Rhodes stated criminals in these cases often spread their crimes across Central Alberta bouncing between communities adding,“Often these investigation are very time consuming – it really is like unraveling a spider web – they don’t just stay in one spot so we need all of the detachments in the area to cooperate.”
Other statistics presented to Council included a rise in robberies from two in 2013, 14 in 2014 and 11 in 2015. Sexual assault is also on the rise, running from six in 2011 to nine in 2013 and 18 in 2015. Break and enter charges jumped from 48 in 2014 to75 in 2015. Theft over $5,000 has risen from nine charges in 2014 to 24 in 2015. A significant jump was also visible with trafficking charges, seeing 13 charges in 2014 move up to 21 charges in 2015.
While the crime rates continue to rise, Rhodes stated so do the rate of arrests being made and charges being laid. He explained a detective position was added to the detachment around a year and a half ago, with the new detective’s case load never ceasing and perhaps a need for another detective in the near future if the crime rates continue to rise.
Eight years ago Sylvan Lake crime rates would die off in the winter time said Rhodes to Council – these days are gone and instead the RCMP have been going steady since summer.
Having only arrested the suspect wanted for the recent rash of robberies earlier that morning, Rhodes was pleased to report toTown Council that they were hoping to lay charges later this week after having received calls from the owners of Bayshore Market following the foiled attempted robbery at their store. The RCMP later apprehended the suspect near Esso and Humpty’s in SylvanLake.
Mayor Sean McIntyre commended Rhodes and the 16 municipal members and the six rural members of the Sylvan Lake RCMP for their incredibly hard work to keep the citizens of Sylvan Lake safe.
“I did notice some of the measures your detachment has taken to protect local businesses, liquor stores in particular, and if I noticed I’m sure other members of the public must have as well and we do appreciate that,” said Mayor McIntyre. “Certainly your quick response today yielded serious results – thank you.”