[Farmers in Saskatchewan say they’re having to use their rifles to defend their property instead of shooting wildlife. PHOTO: Farmers With Firearms]
A Facebook group called Farmers With Firearms is gaining attention since its creation last Thursday and causing concern among law enforcement.
The group, which now has more than 1,000 likes, describes itself as a group that “will fight if need be” to protect their property.
“We need to protect ourselves out here,” said Lee, a farmer from west central Saskatchewan who created the group but didn’t want his surname used.
“The police take hours to show up,” he told Yahoo Canada News. “I created the group/page to keep the farmers in rural [Saskatchewan] informed as to where people are seeing suspicious vehicles.”
Earlier this month, RCMP officials in Saskatchewan cautioned against vigilantism. Sgt. Earl LeBlanc, with the RCMP’s “F” Division Communications Unit in Regina, said residents who witness a crime or suspect a crime is underway should report it immediately to the police.
LeBlanc urged the farmers not to chase or subdue the suspects in any way.
“Let us do our jobs,” LeBlanc told Global News.
Farmers in Saskatchewan say they’re having to use their rifles to defend their property instead of shooting wildlife. Some farmers say they have been approached by masked gunmen on their property or have seen an increase in crime.
Lee, who has been a farmer for 27 years, said he doesn’t encourage people to confront possible suspects but can only speak for himself.
“I will contact the RCMP as soon as possible. Then do what needs to be done.”
While calling for calm, LeBlanc also acknowledged the Mounties have challenges in rural areas and response times can vary. He added that people can secure property and lock storage sheds, buildings, vehicles and fuel tanks.
Farm shooting sparks race debate
Emotions are running high in the province ever since the death of indigenous man Colten Boushie, 22, who was shot and killed Aug. 9 on a farm near Biggar, Sask. His family says Boushie was riding in a car with four others and they were needing help with a flat tire.
Gerald Stanley, a 54-year-old farmer, is charged with second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty and a preliminary hearing is slated for Jan. 16, 2017. He is out on bail. The fatal shooting sparked racial confrontations across the province.
“Much as we’d love to see more officers, I can’t say definitively that we need more. We just need to help them as citizens,” said Trevor Tychkowsky of the Alberta Provincial Rural Crime Watch Association.
The group has been around, more or less, since 1969. That’s when residents in rural areas volunteered to accompany RCMP officers to act as guides on back roads and hard to access properties. Now, it’s more like a neighbourhood watch — where signs are put up and people keep a close eye on each other’s property.
“It has worked all this time,” Tychkowsky told Yahoo Canada News from his acreage in Slave Lake, Alta., about a 90-minute drive northwest of Edmonton. “We have to be the eyes and ears for the police. If you see a suspicious-looking vehicle, call it in. Don’t be afraid to get involved.”
Tychkowsky said his group, which numbers 20,000 members across five zones in Alberta, has a “phone fan out system.”
“If you do see a crime happening, you call police first,” he explained. “Then you call our local board where you’re located. So we make phone calls out to our members who are in the area that is affected.”
Increase in break-and-enters
Tychkowsky says these are all crimes of opportunity and encourages people to keep their properties and vehicles locked.
“We have seen a slight increase in crime and we think it’s due to the economic downturn in the last year. Definitely, crime has happened when things are not secured and easy to get.”
He said break-and-enters have been the main form of crime.
“We are encouraging people to mark their stuff and to be able to identify it. I think all this stolen stuff is being sold, yes.”
As more robberies are taking place, Tychkowsky has seen an uptick in calls to his association and he says his organization hasn’t seen so much interest in joining as in the last year.
“When we used to go for member drives people would say, ‘Nah, it doesn’t affect me,’” he said. “Now, they’re telling us ‘We’ve gotta do something because it happened to me.’”