On October 5, Scott Webb, Manager of Protective Services, provided Woodlands County Council with the quarterly update, up to September 30, 2021, for RCMP, Lac Ste Anne County (LSAC) Patrol and the Woodlands County fire departments. The update provided numbers over previous years so that Council could see the change and compare them.
Webb started with the breakdown from the area of the county patrolled by Barrhead RCMP. "Break and enters are down 25 percent. Theft of motor vehicles is down 75 percent from 2020 to 2021. Theft over $5000 has unfortunately increased by 100 percent, and theft under $5000 is down 36 percent." One good news line was arson, which is down 100 percent. General Mischief was flatlined at zero while Damage to Property was up 33 percent. These numbers touch only the Fort Assiniboine area.
"Now we have the stats from Whitecourt, which covers a majority of our county. Break and Enter is down seven percent. Theft of motor vehicles is down 27 percent. Theft over $5000 is up 67 percent, and theft under $5000 is up 33 percent. Possession of stolen goods is down 56 percent. Fraud is down 40 percent. Arson is up 50 percent from 2020. Mischief (Damage to Property) is up 17 percent, and other Mischief is down 20 percent," spoke Webb. Injuries from motor vehicle collisions grew 75 percent from 2017-2021; however, from 2020 to 2021, there was a 44 percent decrease. Mental Health Act statistics rose 106 percent from 2017 to 2021, and from 2020 to 2021, the increase was 13 percent.
Webb then explained the activity from Woodlands County fire departments, starting with Anselmo. "From 2019, 2020, and 2021 our Anselmo calls have increased, and our calls are made up of structural and wildland fires." In 2020, the Anselmo Fire Department had eight calls. So far in 2021, up to September 27, there have been twelve calls. Calls have included alarms, medical assists, public assistance response, vehicle incidents and mutual aid.
Public Assistance Responses are when fire teams are called out to help the public. "We participated in the search for the lost hunter here in the spring. We were working with the RCMP," explained Webb. He said they were also paged out on September 1 by the Whitecourt Fire Department for a non-Woodlands-related area structure fire call.
In Blue Ridge, calls from 2019 are going down. "We had 51 calls in 2019 and have 27 calls year to date, September 27, 2021. Our calls are no different than Anselmo's. Structural, wildland, and alarm calls." Blue Ridge has responded to search and rescues this year, including water rescues. "(We've had) Mutual Aid calls with LSAC, Goose Lake and Whitecourt FD. We have a good relationship with all of the departments working around us," spoke Webb.
Fort Assiniboine is one of the busiest spots. "In 2019, we had 61 calls, and as of September 27, 2021, we've had 48 calls. The majority of our calls are medical calls. We do a lot of medical assists out there. We do have PCP paramedics on staff out there, so they make a lot of quick responses because AHS is so far to get to. It's about 30 minutes to get an AHS unit out there, so there's a lot of community support when it comes to our ambulance."
In Goose Lake, Webb said the numbers have remained steady. In 2019 they had 17 calls, and so far, in 2021, there have been 13, which is one less than last year. "The most calls for Goose Lake are our mutual aid calls. There's not a lot of immediate right in Goose Lake, which is really good because it's a piece of heaven out there. It's a really nice area," smiled Webb.
The next portion of his presentation involved the Lac Ste Anne County (LSAC) Patrol Service Officers with which Woodlands County has a contract. "They provide the County and county residents with a lot of things. They enforce traffic safety, including commercial vehicles and off-highway regulations. They provide mutual aid for the Whitecourt RCMP, RCMP Integrated Traffic Unit, Fish and Wildlife, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, and ESRD," explained Webb.
"They patrol county recreation sites and attend events when requested. They are very proactive with preventative enforcement through positive policing. They would rather not hand out a ticket. They would rather educate the young gentleman or lady on an ATV about the rules and regulations and let them go and hope they don't do it again. I think it's been very positive in Blue Ridge. Through my talking with them and then talking with the people on the fire team in Blue Ridge, they don't see a whole bunch of the ATVs running around. They direct line out of town, and then they go do what they are going to do," said Webb.
Patrol officers have handed out 29 citations year to date (end of September) for fines amounting to $6266.00, of which roughly half is still due to be paid. "They are very responsive. We've put the 1-800 number up on the website, and people know to call it. It goes to a dispatch line, and an officer is calling within minutes of the person calling to get information. Great group of people to work with."
Councillor Kluin asked if they could get the data from the Whitecourt Fire Department on the number of responses they do in the county. "I tried to pull stats through Parkland Dispatch (but couldn't), so I reached out to Chief Wynn and will hopefully get some information from him." Kluin was happy to hear that. "As you've said, the fire departments here have worked together closely, and they are a good bunch of guys. I don't think you'll have any problems getting that."
Councillor Bruce Prestidge said he was impressed with the Patrol Services. "Myself and quite a few residents had noticed that it had gotten a lot better with outsourcing the patrol services than when we had it in-house. These people with Lac Ste Anne County are great to deal with. I'm impressed with how they are handling the service."
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press