RCMP try to set up rural crime watch in Conklin, Alta., but residents too fearful to help out

rcmp conklin

In a small northern Alberta hamlet, residents are frustrated with police, the police are begging the community for help and the criminals are slipping through the cracks.

Property crimes, such as break and enter or vehicle theft, are the biggest concerns for Conklin, a community of about 200 residents, 350 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

RCMP have been keen to set up a rural crime watch program, with local volunteers doing vehicle patrols and keeping police apprised of suspicious activity in the community.

Residents and RCMP officers came together Thursday at a meeting to find answers and alleviate frustrations. About 40 people attended, including 11 uniformed officers.

At times, the meeting was tense. Police said they need more support from the community to start up the crime watch program while residents said they felt like Conklin wasn’t a priority. 

But the meeting also provided some hope, said elder Yvonne McCallum, adviser for the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” McCallum said.

“I think that more community members have to take an active part in their community. You know it can’t always be the leaders,” she said. “I’m really happy to see that there are programs being talked about.” 

Sgt. Martina Noskey said RCMP have been trying to get the program up and running for 18 months, but no volunteers have stepped forward to date.

“We can’t do it without the community,” Noskey said.

Doug Mills owns a business in Conklin, Alta., and patrols his own property to keep away the thieves. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

“It doesn’t make sense for me to run it in Fort Mac when I have nobody from the community to tell me, ‘Oh, that’s where the B and Es are happening.'”

RCMP are supportive of the provincial crime-watch program because anyone involved would be known to other residents. But Noskey acknowledged that is also a deterrent to people wanting to participate.

Conklin resident and business owner Doug Mills said he would never volunteer to be a part of a rural crime watch and believes the majority of people in the community feel the same.

“These people are scared for their lives. Scared of getting beat up. Scared of getting shot. Scared of getting broke into,” Mills said.

“[RCMP] say they’ve been asking for our help, but there’s never one time they ever stop by my shop and say, ‘Hey, you know where this guy is?'”

He said all he would have to do is send one group text message and the entire community would be on the lookout. 

“If [police] want our help, they should ask for it,” he said.

Since 2016, he’s called the RCMP about 20 times but no charges have ever been laid, he said.

He said his business — Renegade Gas and Oilfield Services — is constantly being robbed and his residence was burned down.

Mills has taken the security issue into his own hands.

conklin rcmp meeting
There was a good turnout at the community meeting Thursday night. Residents had the opportunity to raise their concerns about policing in the community. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

“We drive around steady in Conklin and I have radio contact with one guy at my shop, two guys driving around, because if we don’t do that we’ll get hit. Especially long weekends, Christmas, New Year’s. We can’t leave nothing unattended.”

Thieves have taken trucks, tools, quads, everything in the shop that’s not nailed down, “and if it’s nailed down they cut it apart and take it anyway,” said Mills. 

Others at the community meeting also said they call for help from the RCMP, but officers never show up. 

Staff Sgt. Tyler Codling emphasized the importance of following up. 

“If a call for a domestic situation hasn’t been dispatched and it’s not properly responded to then we need to know about it so we can correct it,” Codling said.

yvonne mccallum
Elder Yvonne McCallum says she’s happy to see the RCMP setting up meetings in the community. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

“Hopefully it never happens. But let’s be honest, we live in a real world where people are going to make mistakes and we need to correct that to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” 

Mills said he was encouraged that the RCMP were meeting with community members. 

“I hope it’s going to change,” he said. “I think it’s going to change. We’re praying it’s going to change.”

The RCMP are now meeting with residents in smaller groups to discuss issues. 

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Author: ApnayOnline

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