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Calls up, response times down for LPS

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

LPS Chief Lorne Blumhagen. (Photo supplied)

LPS Chief Lorne Blumhagen. (Photo supplied)

The return of local dispatch is proving to be valuable asset to the Lacombe Police Service (LPS).


Calls for assistance went up by 18 per cent in 2017 - surpassing the 7,000 mark - but according to the annual report delivered to council on Monday, call response times, and response times are down.

“Call wait times have been reduced significantly. We haven’t received any complaints on our dispatch services since we initiated localized dispatch,” said LPS Chief Lorne Blumhagen.

“Our response times to calls has been significantly reduced. We’re now actually catching people as they’re leaving a crime scene.For our members, that’s a huge win and a huge success for the community as well.”

Asked if he was able to quantify how much response times are down, Blumhagen said he was unable to identify a number, as LPS was not using their system and its reporting capabilities to its full potential in 2017 but moving forward are now set up to be able to record and report that information for 2018.

Overall, he said 2017 was a positive year of progressive transition for LPS, settling in to their new police station and working with new radio and dispatch systems.

In April of 2017, they underwent a Provincial Standards Audit to ensure effective and efficient police standards are being met. At the end of the audit, Blumhagen said they met or exceeded the standards in all areas.

Decreases were seen in the areas of property crimes (22 per cent), including a 31 per cent drop in mischief, a 24 per cent drop in theft over $5,000, including motor vehicles, and a 17 per cent drop in theft under $5,000.

Crimes against persons saw a 30 per cent reduction, and family disputes decreased by 11 per cent from the 73 per cent increase in 2016. Sexual assaults were down 76 per cent, while assaults remained relatively the same with four less reported incidents over 2016.

There were increases, however, in the areas of impaired driving (24 per cent), break and enters (23 per cent) and drug charges (18 per cent).

Blumhagen said a number of different factors contributed to the increases.

“Part of it is, over the last five years, we’ve had some increase in population base. We’re a central hub for people commuting from major centres in Alberta, but also, our self-generated enforcement has gone up significantly as well,” he said, noting increased enforcement initiatives, as well as a change in how incidents are reported have attributed to some of the increases.

Frauds saw the biggest spike, with a 247 per cent jump. While the number is cause for concern, Blumhagen said many of the incidents, including both internet and phone scams, were likely happening before, and are just now being reported.

A total of 215 frauds were reported, with two to three victims.

Photo Radar

With 75 per cent of LPS’ $4.2-million budget supported through taxpayer dollars, however, Coun. Chris Ross inquired about the possibility of bringing back photo radar as a means to generate revenue.

Then known as the Automated Traffic Enforcement Program (ATEP), photo radar first started catching speeders in the city in 2013, but was axed by council in the fall of 2015.

Blumhagen and Huff both made it clear it won’t return, either, unless council directs them to do so, and its return is rooted in public safety.

“As I’ve stated to council before, we will not bring back any enforcement strategy for revenue purposes. It has to be for public safety,” Blumhagen said. “We will not take it on unless there’s a want or wish from council and it was part of a strategic plan to reduce collisions and increase public and traffic safety.”

In the two years following the termination of ATEP, Blumhagen said collisions actually went down, dropping from 247 in 2015 to 210 in 2016. That number jumped up 11 per cent to 222 last year, but injury collisions were down 27 per cent. There were no fatal collisions.

Red light cameras, increased enforcement or photo radar itself may be viable options to bring those numbers down further, however, he noted there are other solutions to addressing traffic safety, including working with infrastructure and focusing on a education strategies for high collision locations and pedestrian crossings. 

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