Residents from across the County of Grande Prairie are holding Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer’s feet to the fire when it comes to rural crime. Roughly 100 people took part in a local town hall Thursday as part of his ongoing cross-province tour on rural crime concerns.

Many of those in attendance spoke out about feeling unsafe on their properties, with several citing a lack of what they call proper punishment for those who commit crimes in rural areas. Schweitzer says if that is how they feel, the government must take the blame.

“The outcry that I’m hearing from people is they want to feel safe in their homes again and they feel as they may need to take measures into their own hands, and that’s what they emotionally feel right now. That is a failure of our justice system; that’s a failure of us as a government to make sure they do feel safe in their communities.”

However, Schweitzer adds he wants to remind anyone who shares those thoughts that dealing with criminals on their own terms is simply not an option they are afforded.

“Discharging a firearm to protect your property is not a step you can take under our criminal code,” he stresses.

Some of the residents, however, believe problems can be solved closer to home, with a little more cooperation between groups which have the interests of rural homeowners at heart.

“I really liked the thought of existing rural crime watch organizations or other groups coming together and maybe making the community more aware of things,” commented Beaverlodge resident Kendra Madsen.

“Maybe there are new residents that are not aware of what’s going on; we can band together to better help support each other,” she proposed.

Minister Schweitzer was joined at the open house by Finance Minister Travis Toews and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard.