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But, will this help?

Our government says this is not the Kline era, that jobs will be created, not lost and we won’t be affected by a little ‘belt tightening’. This week I’ve had to try to console a friend who has had to plan how to fire her staff. She works in an education setting. This was the human face of recent UPC policy decisions.

So when I heard about the result of the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force (RAPID Force) initiative, the results seemed too good to be true. The additional manpower, the changes to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, increased fines and a restitution recoveries program seemed fantastic. But, like all things that seem too good to be true, common sense trickled through and gaps in logic appeared.

First let’s talk about the expansion of the roles and authority of 400 peace officers in the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch and the AB sheriffs. I can’t speak about the sheriff’s but I can speak with authority about the Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers.

I know multiple people in this role and I can tell you, there is not one of these people that aren’t committed to their job. These people say they are already barely managing to do their jobs. They say it will be impossible for them to do more, with or without additional authority. With double or even triple the responsibilities but with the same number of officers, something will have to give. I’m sure there will be some high profile cases that show a benefit to rural home owners but this will likely mean that our parks will become overcrowded, misused, littered with garbage and unsafe for families. Poaching is also likely to increase unchecked.

Is this the proverbial, ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’?

Then there is the increase in fines, increased prison time and recoveries assistance. Rural home owners deserve this protection and restitution but will they be able to benefit from any one of these tools? It is my understanding that the majority of people arrested now already can’t pay restitution, how will increasing the fines change that? You can’t get ‘blood from a stone’.

So, while fines and expanded recoveries assistance sound good, the reality is that the only affect for these people will be longer jail sentences. Will longer jail sentences serve as a deterrent for future crimes, I’m not convinced. That’s just not what my 20 + years of professional experience has shown and/or what the evidence says will work.

In my work experience dealing with vulnerable populations I’ve learned that crime is usually an act of desperation and opportunity. Increased enforcement might curb the opportunity but the added desperation might actually increase the risk to homeowners.

All Albertan’s deserves to live without fear for their safety or property and for too long the rural crime rate hasn’t been addressed. I commend the UPC government for this initiative but I hope that with these announcements also come further resources. Without these additional resources people will be left relying on hope instead of benefiting from a truly functional program.

- Dan Cunin