Hinton experienced an increase in traffic collisions and theft this summer, stated the Hinton RCMP during an online Town Hall on Oct. 27. RCMP used the Town Hall to release their latest statistics and identify progress on their priorities.
Priorities were set in consultation with residents of Hinton and Yellowhead county. Priority one was traffic safer roads and the objective was to reduce traffic collisions by 10 per cent compared to 2020. At quarter two, the RCMP saw a high increase of about 36 per cent in the Town of Hinton, said Sgt. Graham Gurski, the acting detachment commander of the Hinton RCMP.
“We had a massive influx of visitors and tourists this summer, this coincided with the Alberta Open for Summer plan,” Gurski said.
The increased number of travellers through Hinton resulted in an increase of collisions both in Town and on the Highways, Gurski added. The increase was primarily seen in July and August in the Town of Hinton, however in Yellowhead County numbers were down about 13 per cent compared to the previous year.
“Overall, for Hinton we are now stabilized as a result of entering the Fall season and we actually decreased collisions by three per cent. Our members continue to focus on traffic education, safety, and enforcement remains one of the priorities of your Hinton RCMP,” Gurski said.
The RCMP was limited in the last year in being able to conduct check stops due to the public health restrictions, however those have resumed again and are a continued priority.
Hinton has a traffic safety working group spearheaded by a local constable, which meets with partners in the community to identify problem issues, intersections, areas, and unsafe driving practices. The group works to mitigate those issues through changes, advocacy, and enforcement.
The second priority was crime reduction with a goal to reduce theft by 10 per cent from last year. In Yellowhead County, theft was down by about 35 per cent but the Town of Hinton saw a stark increase in the first week of August. About five individuals were responsible for that increase in the first weeks of August, but have since been removed from the community.
“They went on a bit of a spree and that caused about a 26 per cent increase in thefts in quarter two. That has now since stabilized and we’re down to about a 10 per cent increase,” he said.
Gurski noted that a few of the individuals who committed a rash of offences in early August were arrested and released on bail multiple times. The RCMP continued to conduct condition checks, which the bail system had imposed on them, to ensure they would not commit further crimes.
“Ultimately, this group of offenders was removed from the community by about mid-August and since that point we’ve seen a leveling off in those offences in the Town of Hinton,” Gurski said.
The goal was to conduct 150 condition checks with problem offenders and at the end of quarter two, RCMP had conducted 242 condition checks. These checks help prolonged investigations and search warrants.
“Very positively, as of this broadcast tonight, we’ve conducted six search warrants and this resulted in the seizure of significant quantities of illegal drugs, cash, stolen properties, weapons, and other illicit proceeds of crime,” Gurski said.
Cpl. Ryan Jurgens of the Hinton General Investigation Section stated that he has been leading a property crime and theft reduction strategy and using group-led enforcement, intervention and prevention activities to understand the root causes of crime in Hinton.
“We’ve had success and remain committed to decreasing criminal activity, minimizing the harm it causes and, utilizing an approach that works best for our community,” Jurgens said.
The five parts to this strategy includes the prolific offender initiative, hotspot checks, intelligence-led investigations, condition checks, and education. He noted that most crime is committed by a small group of people and the RCMP works with those prolific offenders to identify and address their underlying issues, such as drug addictions or mental health.
Hotspots are identified and mapped out and detachment members focus on those areas to disrupt the cycle in those affected areas. Intelligence-led investigations resulted in several drug and property search warrants. This summer they completed a successful street-level drug project that involved a number of targets, he said.
Jurgens also shared some tips on how the community can protect themselves against property crime, which can be crimes of opportunity. This means individuals should not leave anything of value or with personal information in a vehicle or outside. Don’t share vacation plans on social media, consider getting a security system, locking cars, businesses, homes, and travel trailers, and keep property well maintained and lit, he said.
To keep property, like bicycles, safe, Gurski noted that individuals in Hinton have already benefited from registering their bikes on the bike index registry website.
Priority three was identified as police community relations and police visibility, which has been tough due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health restrictions, Gurski said. Many events in 2020 were postponed and it was difficult to continue entering schools.
Hinton RCMP participated in more than 72 different meetings, events, community fairs, in both Hinton and Yellowhead County this year. Gurski noted that they’ve made an effort to have officers in the community on foot to interact with the community and visit every school. The goal was to conduct 300 patrols in Yellowhead County and as of the Town Hall they had conducted 709 patrols.
Hinton RCMP uses a multi-agency initiative approach for prevention and enforcement in popular tourist areas during high traffic times.
“We go in integrated teams with the Hinton RCMP and the various partners and we go into these areas to ensure a safe weekend is had by all visitors and they can enjoy the land appropriately, safely, and in the end that’s our goal,” Gurski said.
For the first time in several years, they conducted an Athabasca river boat patrol using this approach, to ensure safe boating.
November is family violence awareness month and Alberta has a higher rate of family violence than other Canadian provinces, Gurski said. Hinton’s family violence rate is down by about 26 per cent this year.
Gurski listed some warning signs to look for if someone suspects intimate partner violence, such as unexplained bruises or questionable explanations for injuries, acting differently or withdrawn when their partner is around, trying to change the subject if questioned about their partner, seeming to be reluctant to make decisions by themselves, or an uncharacteristic change in their drug or alcohol use or their performance at school or work. The RCMP partners with organizations in the community and other professionals to provide support to victims and rehabilitation to offenders. Call 911 in case of intimate partner violence.
The Yellowhead Emergency Shelter for Women (YES) and the RCMP signed a new protocol agreement which formalizes their relationship to better assist vulnerable members in the community. The RCMP also partnered to implement the Rural Mental Health Initiative, which is a public awareness of mental health to prevent family violence. RCMP members attend schools to speak with youth on healthy relationships, dating, and cyber bullying.
The Hinton RCMP is made up of 22 regular RCMP police officers, a general investigation section, and five support staff. A new commander of the Hinton detachment has been identified but is yet to transfer to Hinton.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice