Prairie Post (West Edition) : 2020-06-26

Alberta : 18 : 18

Alberta

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ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW Metal Roofing • Metal Sidings • Metal Trims • 30 Colors Available 29 & 26 Gauge Steel Fascia & Soffit Available Southeast Alberta Property Crime Unit official launch postponed While it has begun, more details about Alberta Law Enforcemen­t Response Team (ALERT)’s Southeast The new crime unit was launched at the beginning of April 2020, with its creation attributab­le to new funding provided by the Alberta Government. The unit is aimed at tackling regional property crime, and is a joint forces initiative between ALERT, Medicine Hat Police Service, and the RCMP. ALERT was establishe­d and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilatio­n of the province’s most sophistica­ted law enforcemen­t resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime. More details of the southeast property crime unit was supposed to be announced at June 8 news conference at the Medicine Hat Police station but due to a scheduling conflict, Minister Doug Schweitzer and others were not able to make it and more info will come forth in the near future. was organized was because after having discussion­s with many in the southeast, there was concerns about how many sectors were being targets of rural-based crime. Town halls and meetings with various group indicated something must be down to slow down crime on rural properties and businesses. Besides farms, oilfield and telecommun­ications areas were all targets. meeting with people (last last year) is rural crime is a huge issue,” explained Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General in a June 8 phone interview. He noted the number of reported thefts of things such as scrap metal, copper wire and catalytic converters was on the rise. The government had announced in November, 2019 their commitment to do more. They announced further steps to combat rural crime, which includes expanded authoritie­s and roles for Government of Alberta peace officers from the Fish and Wildlife Enforcemen­t Branch, Alberta Sheriffs. Integratin­g provincial peace officers In rural areas, police can be stretched across large distances, which can lead to longer response times. To help reduce response times, the government will create the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force – the RAPID Force – by expanding the roles and authoritie­s of 400 peace officers in the Fish and Wildlife Branch and the traffic arm of the Alberta Sheriffs. The changes will allow these officers to respond to a wider range of calls and to assist the RCMP and other police services in some emergencie­s. Training and related planning is underway, to have the first of these officers available to assist rural Albertans by fall 2020. Strengthen­ing property rights To defend the rights of law-abiding property owners, Liability Act. These changes would eliminate the liability of law-abiding property owners who are protecting their property against trespasses who are, or who are believed to be, in the commission of a criminal act. This provision will be retroactiv­e to Jan. 1, 2018. To strengthen trespass laws and further defend property rights, planned legislatio­n includes a proposed five-fold increase to the maximum fines for trespassin­g offences, with fines of up to $10,000 for a first violation and $25,000 for subsequent offences, as well as possible prison time of up to six months. Corporatio­ns that help or direct trespasser­s would face fines up to $200,000. In addition to these increases, a proposed change would increase the maximum amount a court can order for loss of or damage to property from $25,000 to $100,000. The planned legislatio­n would amend the Petty Trespass Act to add explicit references to better capture land used for crops, animal-rearing and bee-keeping. A proposed biosecurit­y regulation under the Animal Health Act would create offences and penalties for people who enter agricultur­al operations without authorizat­ion or encourage others to do so. Such incidents can introduce disease and threaten the welfare of animals. Cracking down on metal theft Government has proclaimed the Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identifica­tion Act to deter metal theft by making it more difficult for criminals to monetize stolen material by selling it for scrap. Metal theft is a significan­t public safety risk. Thieves terrify property owners by trespassin­g and stealing materials such as copper wire and industrial batteries and frequently damage and interfere with critical systems like electrical lines, telecommun­ications cables and transporta­tion infrastruc­ture. Criminals often steal metal from property owners and critical infrastruc­ture in isolated areas to avoid detection. This has also made rural Albertans a target of trespasser­s and thieves looking for metal. The Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identifica­tion in Council signed Nov. 5 puts the legislatio­n into effect immediatel­y. Regulation­s outlining requiremen­ts on dealers and recyclers to obtain proof of identifica­tion from sellers, record and retain details of transactio­ns and share informatio­n with law enforcemen­t will be in place by spring 2020. There is also an immediate requiremen­t for scrap metal dealers and recyclers to report any suspected stolen property in their possession to authoritie­s. A new voice for victims Community impact statements will recognize the farreachin­g effects of a crime and how an entire community can suffer harm or loss. A new program will enable communitie­s to take part in the sentencing of offenders by letting them submit a statement describing how the crime has affected the community as a whole – including the emotional, physical and economic impact, or fears they may have for their own security. A community impact statement could be written on behalf of any group of people, such as those in a geographic area, diverse segments of the population, and groups affected by the crime. Community impact statement forms will be available online in early January. There will also be additional support for victims, via a new Restitutio­n Recoveries Program. The program will help victims collect outstandin­g payments on restitutio­n orders by giving government the authority to use enforcemen­t measures against offenders, such as garnishing wages or seizing and selling property, as needed. This program will reduce red tape for victims who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system and attempt to collect court-ordered restitutio­n at their own risk, effort and expense. Schweitzer said June 8 that details on the southeast issue will be forthcomin­g in the near future. (With files from Ryan Dahlman) DOUG SCHWEITZER PRAIRIE POST

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