When it comes to reducing rural crime, it's not about how many municipal peace officers there are, says one Lac La Biche County councillor — it's about the limits of their job descriptions.
During Lac La Biche County council's most recent public meeting, Hylo-area council or George L'Heureux asked how many peace officers are employed by the municipality. He then questioned their effectiveness in fighting the increase in rural crime.
"How many do we need if we are not going to have a presence in the rural areas, not stopping vehicles or driving down roads?" L'Heureux asked, responding to concerns about policing in the Hylo area — a discussion topic at a community meeting in Hylo last Sunday.
"They do not wear capes or carry guns" — Charlyn Moore
Councillor Charlyn Moore's defended the municipal peace force, saying the amount of peace officers isn't' the problem.
"Our peace officers do not fight rural crime. Our peace officers do bylaws," she said, explaining the limitations of peace officers in any municipality when it comes to Criminal Code matters. "Our peace officers do not fight crime. They do not wear capes or carry guns."
The role of crime enforcement in the community, she said, falls onto the RCMP.
According to Lac La Biche County's policy document for peace officers, their number one priorities are community safety, public education, bylaw and community standards enforcement, road safety and the protection of road infrastructure.
Lac La Biche County acting CAO Ken VanBuul says the current role of the municipal peace officers does not include Criminal Code violations. He says the duties they do perform keep them visible in the community and able to work through many calls.
"When we start to use our peace officers in ways that are perhaps more in-depth," he said, "their files are much more time consuming."Van Buul added that the priorities policy can be reviewed and revised at council's discretion. He plans to add the discussion to the next council meeting on September 22.
To the end of July of this year, the municipality's Enforcement Services department had investigated 1,800 files and arrested 61 people on various infractions such as outstanding warrants or being intoxicated in public. According to statistics provided by the Enforcement Services department, about 20 per cent of the files have involved a partnership with the local RCMP.Lac La Biche County's Enforcement Services department employs two bylaw enforcement officers, two Level 2 community peace officers and six Level 1 community peace officers.