BOWDEN — Overall, crime has gone down in Bowden, according to Staff Sgt. Warren Wright, commander of the Olds RCMP, which includes Bowden in its detachment area.
Wright gave that message as he presented the latest crime stats for Bowden during a recent town council meeting.
He said the detachment received 62 complaints from Bowden during the period from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 as opposed to 73 previously.
He said last fall, Olds RCMP received a total of eight persons-related crime complaints – four harassment complaints and four assault complaints – in Bowden, 50 per cent of the 16 reported for the detachment area.
“I can't say it’s related to people getting tired of the second year of COVID; I can’t say that. But I can just say that sometimes it’s a combination of new people or just people that have been around that just sort of come to conflict,” he said.
“There is no persons crime wave going on in Bowden, I can assure you.”
Wright noted that one responsibility of RCMP is to monitor people who are on court-ordered supervision and release conditions.
That’s not a problem in Bowden, he indicated.
“With regards to crime reduction/habitual offender management, we just don’t have anybody currently in town under conditions for us to monitor, which is good, absolutely,” Wright said.
A town hall on Bowden crime, held at the Friendship Centre in January, attracted eight people.
Wright said he was pleased with that turnout; that it was “very well attended.” That sparked some laughter among councillors but Wright stood by that comment.
He said due to COVID restrictions, organizers had looked at holding it online but there were concerns about how many people would join that way.
“Fortunately, I believe we had four residents. We had four elected officials and I thought we had a great conversation for an hour and 45 minutes with respect to some of the things that are going on,” he said.
"Well in my little report here it just said I really felt bad that there was not that many in attendance and I think reflected badly on the town – I thought. That’s just my personal opinion,” Town of Bowden Mayor Robb Stuart said.
"I was happy with the people that turned up. I mean, even though there were some elected officials there they’re still residents, so it counts, right,” Wright replied, sparking light laughter.
Wright urged councillors to send him their annual list of policing priorities for 2022-23 as soon as possible so he can organize that for April 1, the beginning of the RCMP’s fiscal year.
He noted that last year’s policing priorities in Bowden were crime reduction initiatives, habitual offender management, curfew and compliance checks, followed by community engagement and visibility and traffic safety.
“It’s completely up to mayor and council as to whether or not you’d like to keep those the same or you’d like to change them up. Whatever you like,” he said.
Restorative justice eyed
Wright confirmed his goal to bring the restorative justice program to Bowden. Under restorative justice, victims and offenders meet with the help of facilitators to hammer out a solution for what has happened.
He said he would discuss that possibility with Bowden chief administrative officer Greg Skotheim in the near future.
Staff Sgt. Warren Wright told a Jan. 26 meeting on crime in Bowden that there are plans afoot to help the local Youth Justice Committee publicize the program this spring.
He said one strategy is to make a presentation before Olds town council some time in March. Another is to undertake a publicity campaign in the local news media. Yet another is to promote the program via the Olds & District Chamber of Commerce.
Restorative justice (sometimes called alternative dispute resolution) is a way to avoid putting people – primarily youth – through the justice system when they’re alleged to have committed crimes.
Wright said they have to be truly sorry for their action.
They meet with the victim(s) of the crime and an alternative to punishment through the justice system is worked out – a certain number of hours of community service, for example.
“I know things were kind of stagnant for a while, but we’re really trying to fire that up, because there’s such a strong push by the province, by the RCMP, to have restorative justice stuff going again,” Wright said.
“We’re just trying to divert people and make it more grass-roots, community-based.”
He said just because the committee’s name has the word ‘Olds’ in it, doesn’t mean it won’t deal with situations in Bowden as well.
Wright repeated a vow he made during the crime town hall to be more visible in Bowden this year.