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Bonnyville Staff Sergeant encourages residents to think prevention

While highlighting the Town of Bonnyville’s crime statistics, Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke indicates that preventative measures taken by residents could be their best defence against certain types of theft and property crime.
Bonnyville Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke presents an annual report of services and investigations that the Bonnyville RCMP detachment has carried out in the Town of Bonnyville to council on Nov. 8. File photo

BONNYVILLE – An annual report highlighting the services and investigations that the Bonnyville RCMP detachment has been involved with over the last year was presented to the Town of Bonnyville council on Nov. 8. 

Bonnyville Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke told council that the local detachment’s two main priorities for the last several years have been crime reduction and community engagement. 

According to Parke, these priorities are set annually and are decided on by the RCMP’s K Division, in consultation with policing committees and stakeholders. 

Responding to Mayor Elisa Brosseau’s inquiry into how the priorities are selected, Parke explained that the same priorities have been set for the past few years because they remain the primary concerns that the detachment deals with on a regular basis. 

Highlighting the detachment’s presence in the community, Parke updated council that over $50,000 was raised for Bonnyville Victim Services during its quinquennial Regimental Ball held in September. 

Vehicle thefts 

Before jumping into crime statistics and investigations in Bonnyville, Parke noted that community members have a strong interest in the rates of both rural and municipal property crime. 

“One thing that we've seen consistently is theft of motor vehicles,” she said. 

In 2020, the Bonnyville RCMP detachment investigated the theft of 145 vehicles. In 2021, the detachment responded to 132 vehicle thefts. 

“So far this year - not quite up to date - but into October we had 116,” said Parke. 

While the number of vehicle thefts has not dropped, it is statistically similar to the previous years. Parke pointed out, “We're basically on track to be about the same.” 

These statistics included stolen trucks, SUVs, cars, minivans, and motorcycles, but exclude off highway vehicles. 

“Without running the numbers right now, I'd say... there's an equal amount of off highway vehicles being stolen as there was in the past as well,” said Parke. 

“Our clearance type is low on this type of offence, and by clearance type I mean our ability to solve this particular type of crime. Theft of motor vehicles is quite low compared to other offenses,” Parke told council. 

When it comes to reducing vehicle theft and other property crimes, Parke says the best defence is prevention.  

"We're always encouraging people to lock up your vehicle when you’re not using it. Never leave your keys inside the vehicle unattended. Never leave the vehicle unlocked and running... Never leave valuables in plain sight.” 

With regards to newer key fob starting or “Smart Key” vehicles, Parke paid extra attention to note that many of these vehicles do not need the fob in the car to start driving once the vehicle is running. 

Property crime 

In 2020, the Bonnyville detachment carried out 331 investigations involving theft under and theft over $5,000. 

The number of theft investigations dropped in 2021 to 269 investigations. However, from the beginning of 2022 until late October, 305 investigations involving property theft have occurred. 

“Again, for thefts that clearance type is low,” indicated Parke. “Taking that into consideration, we encourage people to take the necessary steps to prevent theft in the first place.” 

The Staff Seargent referenced the work being done by a new unit out of K Division called the Community Safety and Wellbeing Unit. The unit specializes in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).  

“They make house calls to the rural areas to assist property representatives to take steps to protect their property. And even though they are a new unit, the Bonnyville detachment has already made use of them on three different occasions on three different investigations so far,” she said. 

Many of the preventative steps are easily accomplished while some can be more costly, said Parke referring to CPTED measures. 

In January, Parke will be presenting preventative tips for businesses at a Bonnyville and District Chamber of Commerce meeting. 

Caught in possession 

When it comes to laying charges of possession related to property obtained through crime, clearance rates are significantly higher, said Parke. 

“Finding somebody in possession of stolen property happens more often than catching them in the act of stealing... that's why our clearance rates are much higher on those,” she said. 

In 2020, the Bonnyville detachment was involved in 97 investigations involving possession of stolen property under $5,000 and over $5,000. In 2021 that number was 70, and from the beginning of 2022 until late October the detachment reported 82 investigations. 

“When we catch somebody with property, oftentimes the property is a stolen vehicle, whether they're the ones who stole it or not they can be charged for being in possession of it,” Parke explained. 

Hot Spot Patrols 

Each fiscal quarter, RCMP members carry out over 1,000 focused proactive patrols also known as Hot Spot Patrols. 

“These are patrols happening while many community members are asleep. We ask our community members to please keep in mind that the community has more police vehicles patrolling throughout it than they may realize,” said Parke. 

During these patrols, officers are actively trying to catch people in the act or carry out tasks covertly. 

From April to June, 1,348 proactive patrols were carried out. In the second quarter, 1,059 proactive patrols were conducted. 

Detachment staffing  

With the annual report came some good news – the Bonnyville detachment is nearly fully staffed. 

“On paper, we have 21 members and for the most part those are all full. Of the 21 members 13 of those are established municipal positions,” said Parke. 

“The annual plan for [the Town of] Bonnyville is 13 working officers and aside from the few that are light duties or on special leave, everyone is fully operational.”

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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