Justice minister calls for tougher penalties to address 'crime crisis' in rural Alberta
CALGARY -- Alberta’s Justice Minister is expected to focus in on rural crime in a meeting with his provincial, territorial and federal counterparts in Victoria, B.C. Wednesday.
"Rural Albertans are victimised on a regular basis," Douglas Schweitzer told CTV News Calgary Wednesday morning. "Right now we have home invasions, we have people sleeping with axes under their beds, people sleeping with firearms close by which they shouldn’t' have to do that to feel safe."
"These criminals are effectively laughing at the system, they don’t think there is any real threat to them personally. They (think they) are going to go in and out of our correctional facilities and have no real punishment."
In a letter sent to federal Justice Minister & Attorney General David Lametti in December, Schweitzer said he wants to see amendments to the criminal code to tackle “skyrocketing” crime rates in many of Alberta’s rural communities.
"We believe that rural Albertans deserve better and we are committed to ensuring all Albertans feel safe, secure, and protected in their communities."
Schweitzer proposes three points be considered as aggravating factors when it comes to the Criminal Code’s Principles of Sentencing for rural crime offences if evidence suggests the accused:
- selected a remote location to commit the crime in recognition of the victim’s enhanced vulnerability
- refused to depart the scene of a break and enter or theft when confronted by the property owner
- was armed with a weapon and/or exhibited threatening behaviour to the victim or other persons on the property
Tackling rural crime has been a priority for the provincial government who recently unveiled its Rural Crime Strategy, which includes a new rural policing model, as well as legislative changes to strengthen the rights of property owners, including trespassing laws and biosecurity regulations.
It also introduced the new Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force, better known as RAPID Force, that gives peace officers and Alberta Sheriffs the power to respond to a wider range of calls.
Minister Schweitzer recently held town halls across Alberta to hear concerns about crime from residents in remote areas.