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Councillors ask questions, review crime statistics with RCMP

Town of St. Paul council had a chance to sit with Staff Sgt. Greg Stannard at a recent Committee of the Whole meeting.
crime tape

ST. PAUL - St. Paul RCMP Staff Sgt. Greg Stannard took time to chat with Town of St. Paul council during a committee of the whole meeting on June 16, offering councillors an opportunity to ask questions and share information with local police.

Stannard said since coming to St. Paul about a year and a half ago, he has been working to fill all positions. In 2021, the St. Paul detachment responded to a little over 10,000 files, and nearly half of those - 4,776 - came from within the Town of St. Paul. The other 53 per cent of call came from the County of St. Paul and surrounding First Nations communities served by the detachment.

Stannard noted that if residents have questions about where the members are, they can be sure that officers are attending calls within St. Paul just as much as other areas.

Since coming to St. Paul, Stannard has seen 17 new recruits from depot coming to the St. Paul Detachment area, with an 18th set to arrive this summer. With so many new officers, Stannard says he would ideally like to see members serving five or 10 years in the community, but unfortunately that doesn't happen as much as it used to. 

But, the advantage of having so many new members is that they will be here for a few years, at least.

A number of members have left the community in the past year and a half, but they're going good places because of what they've learned here.

"They learned a lot of things. Some of them have gone on to do some amazing things," said Stannard.

Speaking about statistics, Stannard acknowledged that many areas are seeing an increase in incidents of crime. Domestic violence calls, for example, have increased nearly three times over the past five years. 

"That's a big difference," said Stannard, adding, there is also a lot of time that must be dedicated to dealing with domestic violence calls.

And while all calls are important, it is important for residents to understand that it may take police some time to respond to calls such as break-ins to a garage that my have occurred overnight - due to priority being given to persons crimes. 

"It's not that we forgot about it, but it's not as time sensitive (as a persons crime)," says Stannard, adding, as per policy, RCMP members respond to domestic violence calls with two officers, rather than one. 

Police to population

In 2021, the police to population ration was 514 persons per member for the St. Paul detachment. When compared to the average of 663 persons per member, residents in the St. Paul area had more police per population than the average. 

"But in 2021, the criminal code cases per member for St. Paul Detachment was 206.9, which is significantly higher than the 86 criminal codes per member on the same detachments being used," explained Stannard, To meet the average number of criminal codes per member, the detachment would need four time more members.

Open to questions

Stannard opened to floor to councillors to ask questions during the meeting.

Coun. Brad Eamon npointed to the significant increase that is shown in the statistics regarding vehicle thefts. 

"Do we have any strategy to bring that number the other way?" asked Eamon.

Stannard noted that police have been watching the occurrences and take note of any "hot spots." Officers will then be tasked with patrolling specific areas. Of course police are aware that crime rarely happens where the police are, and "It's hard to measure when a deterrent works." But, they are hopeful the strategy at least helps curb the problem.

Stannard also noted that not all the thefts are committed by local people, and sometimes it can be criminals from outside the area that steal a vehicle. 

Coun. Norm Noel asked if police would be doing patrols where they check to see if vehicles are locked, and then knock on doors to educate the public where doors are being left unlocked. Stannard said that this method was attempted, but there were some poor responses to the efforts by residents.

People have changed a lot in the past 20 years, said Stannard, which makes it difficult to do a proactive patrol and educate the public by knocking on doors. Police are essentially being questioned by the people they are trying to protect.

"I think locked is your best option," said Stannard, when speaking about ways residents can protect themselves from theft.

Discussions around clearance rates and challenges within the justice system were also noted throughout the meeting.

While he noted that he did not want to criticize the justice system, Stannard noted that sometimes, cases can take years to move through the courts and that is a challenge in itself for officers. He personally attended a court proceeding for an impaired driver charges six years ago - and the accused didn't show up. When dealing with incidents that happened years ago, officers have only their notes to rely on, and "it beats up on our memory." 

Coun. Nathan Taylor asked if RCMP would ever consider having two officers to each vehicle, to which Stannard said he didn't believe that was a route that would be taken since the costs would essentially double.

"I can't imagine being a 22 or 23-year-old kid straight out of depot in rural Alberta being an hour and a half away from backup. They're brave. They're braver than I am... they're heroes for being out there," said Taylor. He said he felt moving back to the auxiliary officer program could help solve some of the issues.

"I was an auxiliary before I joined the RCMP," said Stannard, in response to Taylor's comments. But while it is nice to have a second person as back-up for a number of reasons, Stannard didn't believe having auxiliary officers would make things twice as efficient. 

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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