The Alberta government is looking to strengthen services addressing rural crime in a series of legislative changes ranging from enhancing the role of peace officers, to accepting community impact statements on crime.
“In many ways, rural communities are the heart of this province – hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, and always ready and willing to lend a hand to a neighbour in need,” says Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon. “It’s heartbreaking to see the scourge of criminal activity worsen in these communities over the past several years, and we need to take action. This is an issue that affects many in my own community, and it is one that I take very seriously.”
Provincial peace officers
The Alberta Government plans to create a RAPID Force, or Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force, which will give 400 peace officers the ability to respond to a wider range of calls, and assist the RCMP and other police services in some emergencies. The first of these officers will be available to rural Alberta in this new role by the fall of 2020.
Proposed legislation changes for Alberta property owners include:
- Changes to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, eliminating the liability of law-abiding property owners protecting property against trespassers in or believed to be in commission of a criminal act, retroactive to January 1, 2018;
- A five-fold increase in maximum fines for trespassing offences (up to $10,000 for a first violation, $35,000 for subsequent offences, and the possibility of six months in prison);
- An increase in the maximum amount a court can order for loss of or damage to property from $25,000 to $100,000;
- Fines of up to $200,000 for corporations that help or direct trespassers;
- Amendments to the Petty Trespass Act, to add explicit references to better capture land used for crops, animal-rearing and bee-keeping”; and
- Biosecurity regulations under the Animal Health Act, creating offences and penalties to unauthorized entry into agricultural operations.
In an effort to deter metal theft, the government has proclaimed the Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act of 2012. By spring 2020, dealers and recyclers will need to obtain proof of identification from sellers, and record and retain details of transactions. Effective immediately, it is also required that scrap metal dealers and recyclers report any suspected stolen property in their possession.
Community impact statement forms will be available online in early January, allowing communities to take part in the sentencing of offenders, by allowing them to describe how a crime has affected the community as a whole.
In addition, a new Restitution Recovers Program will attempt to reduce red tape for victims.
“We are sending a strong signal to rural Albertans who have been victimized for far too long. We have listened to you. We have heard you. And we are standing with you,” says Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. “We want to ensure you know that we are going to do everything we can as a provincial government to help you feel safe in your communities.”