According to new information from Statistics Canada, Grande Prairie is leading the country in crime and violent crime rates per capita. That information is based on crime that happened in the city in 2014, and Staff Sergeant Donnan McKenna says the numbers for 2015 already suggest that it will be even worse for this year. So far in 2015 there have been 5 homicides, nearly 900 thefts of vehicles, and 43 armed robberies in the city.
“For our population we’ve had an inordinate amount of crime. One of the examples is truck theft and of course we’ve had gang violence, we’ve had shootings, we’ve had homicides, all related to the drug culture and to gang violence.”
There have been 30 shooting or firearm related incidents so far this year. McKenna believes 85 per cent of those are linked to organized crime.
When compared to communities of similar size, Grande Prairie has less officers handling what is often a higher number of criminal cases. The Swan City has about 115 officers per 100,000 residents, compared to the Alberta and Canada averages, which are 170 to 190 officers per 100,000 people. Wood Buffalo, meanwhile, has 194 and Red Deer 143 per 100,000 residents.
McKenna says much of the crime that those officers are dealing with is related to street level drug use.
“The ones that are causing the problems are the same people that are breaking into vehicles and stealing change or stealing the truck to use it as currency. A lot of these people are addicts, and how do you make money for your addictions? Theft and robbery, and that pushes all those other things up.”
McKenna explains the RCMP have drafted a 10 year plan for crime reduction which includes hiring an additional eight officers a year for the next seven years. It also calls for an increase in administrative staff to help reduce the amount of desk work currently being done by officers.
“The policemen are kind of like the pointy end of a stick, to use an analogy, but you need the people behind them; you need the support staff. You need people to fill out as much paper work as possible, to do as much computer work as possible so we can get people on the road. My goal is to keep the policemen on the road the vast majority of time.”
That request has been referred to a city committee for future consideration. Meanwhile the city has tentatively approved a drug unit in their 2016 budget which will include 5 RCMP members and 5 administrative support staff.