For members of the Medicine River Rural Crime Watch (MRRCW), looking out for your neighbours isn’t just a friendly thing to do, it keeps the rural residents around Eckville safe.
Jim Morton, president of the MRRCW, said the group has been around for about 30 years and currently has a membership of 200 people. The group’s coverage area is the western half of the Sylvan Lake RCMP detachment area, which covers the communities of Eckville, Gilby, Benalto and Half Moon Bay, as well as the rural areas in between.
Morton said the group members don’t take on any patrols. “The RCMP does the patrolling,” he explained. “We issue BOLOs from the RCMP to our membership and our membership watches their area to see if there is activity related to the BOLO. If they see any suspicious activity in the area, they report it to the RCMP.”
When it comes to safety, especially in rural areas, Morton said more eyes are better.
“I think we are effective,” he said. “We’ve actually had reports from the RCMP of criminals that were apprehended because of the response from our membership. It’s satisfying.”
About three or four years ago, members of the MRRCW and other rural crime watch organizations in Alberta went to the Legislature in Edmonton to advocate for more police presence in rural areas across the province.
“It went well,” Morton said of the group’s efforts. “We were able to get some more staffing in our local detachment because of advocating for assistance in the rural areas.”
Morton has lived in the Eckville area for about 50 years and he said he has noticed a decrease in crime in the area over the last couple of years.
“It might not be the case in all areas, but in our area, it has improved,” he said of the crime rate. “That’s due in large part to the increased staffing levels at the Sylvan Lake detachment and more proactive policing has been effective.”
The MRRCW board of directors meets several times a year and Morton said they make a point of inviting RCMP officers, as well. The group, as a whole, meets three times a year.
While the group does boast 200 members, Morton said they are working on attracting younger people into the MRRCW organization.
“A lot of the older age group has been involved for the last number of years, but we need to attract more younger folks,” he explained.
Going forward, Morton said he hopes the group can continue in the same fashion – looking out for each other.
Visit the Lacombe County website for more information about rural crime watch organizations in the area.