While there has been an increase in rural property crimes, Ponoka RCMP statistics show the Town of Ponoka sees more of the criminal activity.
Part of reason for that may be attributable to a higher density of population within town limits.
The Ponoka RCMP’s coverage doesn’t include all of Ponoka County as the patrol area is delineated differently than county boundaries. RCMP cover to around Mecca Glen and Crestomere on the east and west and just north of Lacombe and south of Maskwacis on the north and south side.
To help understand some of crime statistical information for the area is Sgt. Chris Smiley, acting Ponoka detachment commander.
Taking a look at the crimes against people, the Town of Ponoka saw 143 assaults in 2017, compared to 26 for the rural area.
Smiley said RCMP crime data can be a range of minor incidents to major. In the case of assaults, these could range from bar fights, to domestic violence issues to other disturbances.
For the town, assaults have seen a drop from previous years where in 2015 there were 182 and 183 the next year. For the rural area those numbers remained in the two digits with 31 in 2015 and 24 the year after that.
Sexual assaults is another area of incidents where there were more in town; 13 in 2017 compared to two for the rural area. Smiley pointed out that the majority of these sexual assault files are cases where the individuals knew each other.
He added that while these are sensitive cases, people aren’t being randomly targeted.
When it comes to persons over property crimes, the former will always be first priority for RCMP.
“To preserve life and keep the peace are the top fundamental police responsibilities,” said Smiley. “So persons crimes or files that have a certain public safety element will always take priority.”
He said in cases of domestic disturbances, these take extra time and diligence, plus there’s an element of public and officer safety that needs to be considered.
“All of those require two members to respond. Domestic violence calls are so volatile. It’s so much risk to the people involved as well as police,” explained Smiley, adding that some people who make the call could turn on police.
He said it’s common to see alcohol being a factor in domestic disputes.
One thing that isn’t quite qualified in RCMP statistics, especially for Ponoka, are mental health related calls. Smiley says patients may check themselves out of the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, or may have privileges to leave the centre, however, they may not return when they are supposed to.
“That sparks our missing persons protocol,” he explained.
Missing persons for 2017 in the town were 117, a drop from 172 in 2016 and 147 in 2015. For the rural area those numbers sat at 50, 48 and 44, respectively. Adding to the workload are those false or abandoned 911 calls, which RCMP are required to investigate.
The town saw 34 of those in 2017, 69 in 2016 and 113 in 2015; going back to 2013 the number was higher at 193. On the rural side of things the numbers weren’t much different. In 2017 the rural side saw 43, 86 and 116, respectively. And in 2013 the rural side saw 136 false or abandoned 911 calls.
“If that (911 call) comes from somebody’s house, we will attend that,” said Smiley.
Where it is more difficult to track down is if the call comes from a cell phone. RCMP can speak with the cell phone providers to ping the phone but the location of the phone doesn’t always come up.
When it comes to property crimes, the town saw double compared to the rural side. In 2017 the Town of Ponoka saw total property crimes at 724 while the rural side saw 372. These files include break and enters, theft of vehicles, theft over and under $5,000 as well as possession of stolen goods, fraud, arson and mischief to property.
All the categories in property crimes, with the exception of break and enter (83 for rural and 40 for the municipal) and possession of stolen goods (50 for rural and 33 for municipal), files showed the town had more incidents.
Break and enter files can include attempts at a home, which could mean someone broke the lock on a garage door but suspects were not successful in their attempts.
The majority of these calls for the town were theft under $5,000 at 226 (51 for rural) and mischief to property at 290 (54 for rural).
Smiley said that while there are serious case files, the numbers are relatively low. The town and rural area is a relatively safe community. “People in the community are doing their part.”