Police concerned with growing number of assaults, vehicle thefts in area

The growing prevalence of assaults and vehicle thefts in the area is causing concern for Sylvan Lake RCMP.

The growing prevalence of assaults and vehicle thefts in the area is causing concern for Sylvan Lake RCMP after seeing a significant jump in numbers.

A year-to-date comparison from June showed the number of assaults in 2015 at 122 — a substantial increase from 73 in 2014 during the same period.

Staff Sgt. Gary Rhodes, addressing Town Council on Monday night, said the numbers were worrying.

“Those are the types of crime we’re unable to prevent because of when they happen and where,” he said. “Once they happen, we can’t prevent those.”

Also up was the number of sexual assaults, which doubled from six to 12. As well, motor vehicle theft continues to be a problem in the area.

While stats showed this year at 35, down from 37 at the same time last year, both years’ numbers were up significantly from 11 in 2011, 18 in 2012 and 16 in 2013.

“There have been groups of organized criminals targeting certain vehicles, and they’ve stolen hundreds of them,” said Rhodes. “We’ve had great success over the past year with the (Priority Crimes Task Force), and taken apart a number of these groups. We’ve made a dent in it, but it’s still an issue in this area.”

In many cases, he added, vehicles are found unlocked with keys inside.

But the problem isn’t isolated, he assured; it’s one detachments across the entire region are dealing with.

“This isn’t just particular to Sylvan Lake, it’s the whole surrounding area — the two counties, Innisfail, Red Deer and Blackfalds.”

Rhodes said the Sylvan Lake detachment experienced a decrease in calls for service around winter in his first two years in town, but not this year.

While he admitted it’s too early to tell whether a trend is beginning to form, he strongly hopes against it.

“We have to wait for two or three years to go by before we see any trends there, but the hope is that doesn’t continue this year,” he said. “It puts a strain on resources after a busy summer, and we have trouble catching up because it just carries on.”

Rhodes, who was accompanied by Sylvan Lake RCMP Sgt. Jeff McBeth at Monday night’s council meeting, told councillors that from a policing standpoint he was satisfied with the outcome of last month’s Summer Sensation Beach Music Festival. He added he would be prepared to ensure policing resources were adequately in place should the event return next year.