New alerting system to combat rural crime

A new measure has been launched for residents in the southern part of the province to deliver information about criminal activity in their area directly from the RCMP.

The Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network can send text messages, emails or phone calls to residents. People can sign up and choose how they would like to get these advisories. It’s offered through a partnership with the provincial government, the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association and the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Muncipalities.

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Superintendent Kevin Kunetski, who is the south district officer for the RCMP, said this new system will give the RCMP the ability to communicate directly with the public, which they have not had in the past.

“The RCMP … wants to have that ability to connect with people as quickly as possible when it’s needed,” said Kunetski. “So there’s two types of things that the system will help us benefit with.”

The first is if they have a rash of crimes in an area, such as break and enters. The system can be used to get the information out quickly to people in a particular detachment area so they can be more alert about those issues.

The other issue is if they need the public’s assistance with a crime.

“In some cases, we need their assistance right away, and that may be we had a recent crime, and we have a suspect description and a vehicle description,” said Kunetski. “This system allows us to get information out right away.”

The traditional way they would do that is through a media release, and the media has always been helpful in getting that information to the public. Now the public, and the media, can be tipped off earlier.

“This allows us to do both,” said Kunetski. “We actually not only want the public to be on there (the alert system), we want the media to be on there, too.”

The more information they can get out there, and the faster they can get it out there, the better.

“We recognize the media also has a tremendous network, and so this system allows us to get that information out to as many people as we can quicker,” he said.

There is also an opportunity for the people to help the RCMP a little more. When they hear about things happening in the community, sometimes they can feel powerless to get involved.

“This is a way that everyone can contribute, and just have better knowledge of what’s happening in their communities, and know who to call and what to do, and be a part of safe communities,” he said. “Everyone has a role to play and can play a role.”  

The RCMP also hopes this will reduce crime rates, but that won’t be known for some time.

Kunetski doesn’t know of any other police agencies that have tried this initiative. He believes municipal policing forces might have something similar, and there have been efforts with Rural Crime Watch initiatives.

Where the police would send something to the rural Crime Watch co-ordinator, who would then pass it on to others, this system allows for a bigger network and for people to sign up from neighbouring communities.

The RCMP has already sent out a couple of notifications, including one for a theft of a fuel tank from Weyburn. There was also one for a break and enter from the Melville area. Both cases were still open as of Tuesday morning.

Kunetski hopes this system can eventually be expanded to central and northern Saskatchewan.

“We’ll gage interest as we go forward here, and as we continue to advertise the program,” said Kunetski.

They will also promote it at the upcoming convention of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM).

“We want to encourage everyone to sign up, because it will allow us to gage the interest as well, and so then we can go back and talk about if are we ready expand, and if is there a lot of interest,” said Kunetski. “If that exists, then that certainly makes it easier.”

The Government of Saskatchewan is providing approximately $50,000 for the RCMP to initially launch this system in southern Saskatchewan.

People can sign up by visiting the website for SARM or the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association, or by visiting the Saskatchewan Crime Watch Advisory Network.

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