Crime in Prince Albert is increasingly more a perception than a reality, mayoral candidates Greg Dionne and Jim Scarrow said during Wednesday’s mayoral forum.
Reading the city’s latest crime statistics, Scarrow noted that the city’s overall crime is down 7.8 per cent from this time last year, and that crime against persons is down 28 per cent.
“These are attacks against people,” he clarified, using the 28 per cent reduction as an indicator of city safety.
“We are seeing an impact by one of the most significant crime reduction strategies in North America, created right here in Prince Albert,” he said, calling to mind Community Mobilization Prince Albert.
“This program’s focus is to keep youngsters out of the court system by identifying negative factors that will eventually cause criminal behaviour.”
This program is an interpretation of a similar program former Prince Albert Police Service chief Dale McFee brought over from Scotland, Dionne noted, and links various agencies together to take on community issues head-on.
McFee is now the province’s deputy minister of corrections, public safety and policing, where he’s sharing the Community Mobilization model province-wide — a clear example of its success, Dionne said.
Raining on Dionne and Scarrow’s parade, mayoral candidate Dean Link suggested that things aren’t as safe as being portrayed.
“Reported crime is down — the key word in that statement is ‘reported,’” he said. “Have people just given up reporting?”
Reported crime is down — the key word in that statement is ‘reported.' Have people just given up reporting? - Dean Link, mayoral candidate
“Our seniors live in fear from going outside in the evenings, our youth are afraid of the gangs … How many of you would walk through Kinsmen Park tonight?”
Though Scarrow and Dionne noted that things are improving, both candidates shared insight as to how things can improve even more.
“I will be working with similar-sized communities with a high incidence of crime … to share ideas on how we can reduce crime,” Scarrow said.
The city needs a strategic plan, and with one-third of the people police deal with coming from outside of our community, the province needs to pay for more police officers, Dionne said.
“Councillor Dionne has sat (on the Board of Police Commissioners) for years but he never came up with this idea until an election year,” Link said.
The city needs surveillance cameras in the downtown core, as well as high crime areas, traffic issues need to be dealt with faster and bylaw officers need to be more proactive, he said.
“Root causes of crime are well-known — homelessness, poverty and education, but can we wait for a generation for help to seep through our population?” Link asked.
“Are we not worried about what is going through your alley, your park or behind your house, right now? Since when is arresting people for committing crime wrong?”