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Central Alberta drug busts reduced property crimes, sergeant says

“Part of the offshoot with regards to drug activity, would be a drop in property crimes as we’ve kind of seen. So, hopefully that continues into 2024,” said Poon.
Sundre town council heard on May 27 during a regular meeting from the local RCMP detachment's outgoing commander Sgt. Randy Poon that a couple of 2023 drug busts in Sundre and Olds by extension reduced rates of property crime in town. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

The municipal council recently heard that two RCMP drug busts in Olds and Sundre had a ripple effect of reducing property crime in Sundre.

“Earlier in 2023, we did a search warrant on a drug house in Sundre,” Sgt. Randy Poon, the Sundre RCMP detachment’s outgoing commander, told council on May 27 during a regular meeting.

“After that, Olds also did another search warrant on a group that was related to them; they were basically suppliers to these guys in Sundre, so that had a huge impact in the area within the town and community,” said Poon.

The sergeant presented highlights from the Sundre RCMP’s fourth quarter community report spanning from January to March 2024 as well as crime statistics that compared trends between 2022 and 2023.

Comparing crime stats between 2022 and 2023, persons crime were up to 163 in 2023 from 133 in 2022, or a roughly 23 per cent increase.

Yet in the same period, property crime decreased to 366 in 2023 from 518 in 2022, representing about a 29 per cent drop.

“Part of the offshoot with regards to drug activity, would be a drop in property crimes as we’ve kind of seen. So, hopefully that continues into 2024,” said Poon.

However, from January to March 2024 compared with same period last year, total criminal code offences are up four per cent in the quarter to 127 in 2024 from 122 in 2023.

Year-over-year from January to December, drug offences in 2023 were up to 14 from 11 in 2022. Meanwhile, total criminal code offences were reportedly down to 674 in 2023 from 833 the year prior.

So far this year from January to March, person crimes are up to 38 from 30 compared with the same period in 2023, while total criminal codes so far are up to 127 from 122.

But police activities do not always revolve exclusively around law enforcement. The first among the detachment’s four priorities is police-community relations.

Poon’s report also highlighted the department’s efforts to build proverbial bridges within the community through consultations with a variety of stakeholders including Sundre High School, organizations such as Rural Crime Watch, and with residents through town halls in James River, Harmattan, as well as in Sundre.

One member of the detachment even met with the Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS) to introduce herself and learn more about free-roaming horses and the role the RCMP plays in their management, he said.

The department’s second priority is crime reduction, followed by mental health and substance abuse, and lastly traffic enforcement with a focus on speeding.

The sergeant told council his department had in the fourth quarter already responded to 11 mental health calls, four of which involved the Regional Police and Crisis Team out of Rocky Mountain House.

That unit involves deploying a nurse alongside an officer to take a look at a situation and determine whether there might be “alternative ways in the long-term that we could help these people” without automatically resorting to enforcement, he said.

While traffic enforcement might be the fourth priority, that doesn’t necessarily mean it takes a backseat.

“One of our newer members, he enjoys doing traffic enforcement,” said Poon. “I would say due to his activities and his enthusiasm, we have certainly seen an increase in violations as well as warnings.”

Year-over-year traffic offences between 2022 and 2023 were up to 580 from 522. But from January to March 2024 compared with 2023, traffic offences seemed to have surged up to 173 from 73.

“That increase is a little high,” Poon pointed out.

“And that was due to some coding errors on our part, which have been corrected,” the sergeant said, adding the increase was closer to the vicinity of a 10-20 per cent hike.

After concluding his recap of stats, Poon told council the detachment “is fully staffed.”

However, he noted his impending departure would in his stead leave a corporal in charge of the detachment until a new commander is officially appointed.

“With the wildfires up north … there will be requests for resources to be redeployed from here,” he went onto say.

“However, I have been able to reach an agreement with our district headquarters that we would not have to supply one until the end of September,” he added.

“So, we should have a full slate – other than vacations or training courses – of working Mounties within the town and area (for the summer),” he said.

Following Poon’s presentation, Coun. Owen Petersen touched on a point raised by the sergeant regarding police-community relations.

“What is the role of the RCMP with the wild horse organization?” the councillor asked.

The sergeant said that per his understanding, the Wild Horses of Alberta Society is one of two groups in the area with an interest in horses and the animals’ welfare.

“In the past, my understanding is there has been slight conflicts and so forth,” said Poon, adding the RCMP endeavours to “minimize any of those conflicts.”

“Our role is to go to these different groups that are already in conflict, have discussions with them, listen to them, find out what some of the problems are so that we don’t enter into the criminal code element of, whether it could be mischief or whatever it is,” he said.

“So we’re trying, basically, to keep the peace,” he said.

“The intent is to meet with these groups – even if they’re opposing groups – just to be there so that they have someone to come forward to if they have difficulty in an informal way of discussing it, instead of starting to act on each other.”  

Further pressing, Petersen then followed up to ask, “This is not a Fish and Wildlife issue, this is an RCMP issue?”

The sergeant acknowledged such matters can certainly fall under the purview of Fish and Wildlife.

“However, sometimes what we like to do is get involved because some of our members are very much into horses, farming, ranching – those kinds of things,” he said.

“If a member has an interest in a particular area such as that, we certainly encourage them on their own time or even on-duty time, to go and engage with these people, even if it’s not in our mandate,” he said, adding that mandates of agencies such as Fish and Wildlife and the RCMP sometimes overlap.

“If we can minimize or reduce conflict, that makes our job so much easier,” he said.

Coun. Jaime Marr asked the sergeant to elaborate on meetings the RCMP had with victims services, and whether the provincial government’s changes to that organization were unfolding well or perhaps poised to affect the community.

“The changes that are coming about are not supposed to impact day-to-day things,” said Poon, drawing from his experience after speaking with both regional and local victim services groups.

The changes are primarily structural in terms of who local victim services organizations will now be reporting to, he said, adding Sundre, Olds, as well as Didsbury will continue to have victims services available.

“What has changed is how it’s funded and the organization behind the scenes. The impact on a practical level should be minimal,” he told council.

“With that said, like anything else with change, there’s always a growing pain,” he said, adding changes that were started last year continue to be tweaked as things move forward.

“There are a little bit of difficulties. But what I’ve found from my perspective, is that it hasn’t impacted us at the local level. And hopefully, it won’t.”

Thanking Poon for his service and wishing him well in the future, council proceeded to carry the sergeant’s report for information.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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