The Saskatchewan Rural Crime Watch Association has brought together many like-minded organizations and groups to address rural crime in the province.
On Sept. 30, the Association elected its first Board of Directors to assist local areas with the development and sustainability of local Crime Watch groups.
“There is some advantages to have a provincial association because of what is going on,” Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) president Ray Orb said. “We still have a fair amount of rural crime going on in this province and we have some issues. We need to have more crime watch associations out there.”
This non-profit association led by SARM, Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), Rural Crime Watch members, the RCMP and the Ministry of Corrections and Policing is a community-led and police-supported program dedicated to preventing and reducing criminal behaviour.
It’s an initiative both SARM and SUMA hope community members will actively support by becoming volunteers.
In a release Orb explained that reporting suspicious activity to the RCMP or 911 immediately creates an extra set of eyes for police who may not be in the area.
Orb added that the initiative has already proven successful.
“Statistics show that areas with organized Crime Watch programs tend to have a significant reduction in criminal activity, including theft of equipment and grain, vandalism, dumping of garbage, break-and-enters, and cattle rustling,” he stated in the release.
To participate in the program, Rural Crime Watch volunteers will have to complete security checks with their local RCMP.
Orb explained that there is an advantage to having an umbrella organization.
“It's an information sharing organization,” Orb said. “Being able to work more closely with the RCMP and other organizations is a real advantage.
“It's another set of eyes for the police and that is why we are promoting it.”
According to Orb in the 1980s there were many active Rural Crime Watch groups across the province. However, over the years those groups shrunk or disbanded.
“It kind of fell apart because there wasn't really an umbrella organization to keep them together,” Orb said. “So that is why we thought it was important that we create a provincial-wide association where our members could belong to.”
Orb said the selection of a board of directors comes after serveral years of work. The board has representation from SARM, SUMA, the ministries of Public Safety, Corrections and Government Relations and the RCMP.
The role of members is to observe, record and immediately report all unusual or suspicious vehicles or occurrences to their local RCMP detachment or 911 in the case of emergencies.
The RCMP, in return, will inform the Rural Crime Watch group when there is criminal activity in the area.
“Our communities have always looked out for each other,” SUMA President and Naicam Mayor Rodger Haywards said in the release.
“We share a common goal of wanting safer homes and safer communities, and starting a Rural Crime Watch program in your area makes that goal actionable. Simply put, working together helps the police solve and prevent crime, which makes our communities safer places to live.
The inaugural Board of Directors meeting is being planned for the near future where a President and Vice-President will be elected.
“We are hoping that we can have more RMs on side as time goes on and hopefully sooner than later. It is something we would really like to see,” Orb said.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald