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Rural residents want more action on crime

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Even on a cold day, property crime is an issue that gets rural residents hot under the collar.

During a series of town halls put on by Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins early this week on the subject, that was on full display, with nearly 300 people turning out to a meeting in Alix, Alta. Monday and another 200 showing up at Lacombe County’s Lincoln Hall Tuesday.

Calkins, who launched a Rural Crime Task Force with his fellow federal Conservative colleagues from Alberta, says they’re hearing the message loud and clear.

“Folks are mad. They’re irate,” he said. “They’re law-abiding citizens. Some of them live 30, 40 or 50 minutes away from a police station. Criminals have figured this out and that’s why they’re out in these rural areas.”

Natural solutions from the public include getting “tougher on crime,” and sentences that provide both deterrence and consequences to those involved in crime. Calkins says he’s also heard talk of simpler, prevention-style solutions which include removing valuables from vehicles, making sure cars are locked and keys are removed.

Others suggested by residents at meetings include more vigilante approaches, and a desire to see laws give them the ability to protect themselves, neighbours and their property.

“Right now, the law seems to be lopsided in the criminals’ favour. If you actually do try to defend yourself or property, you could find yourselves in more trouble than the criminal who came in the first place to deprive you of your property and that defies a sense of a natural justice. That’s why people are frustrated,” said Calkins.

“When people are frustrated and upset, that’s when decisions are made and there are consequences I don’t want law-abiding citizens to have to face. Through this process, if we can turn up the heat and make life more difficult for criminals, that’s a win as far as I’m concerned.”

When the Conservatives were in power from 2006-2015, Calkins says they passed close to 90 pieces of justice legislation, including the introduction of mandatory minimum sentencing. As a result, serious and violent crime is in a downward trend across Canada.

Property crime, in contrast, he says, is on the rise, currently seen in the eyes of the law to be “less serious.”

The goal from town halls - which are also being held by his fellow colleagues - is to compile information collected into a report, which will then be taken to Parliament, hopefully with legislative solutions to mitigate rural crime to follow.

Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen will also host a rural crime town hall at the Innisfail Legion on Saturday, Jan. 27 at the Innisfail Legion at 1 p.m. 

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