DIDSDBURY - The new detachment commander at the Didsbury RCMP station says public tips are always welcome and can be helpful in keeping the community safe.
Staff Sgt. Stephen Browne recently became the permeant detachment commander after serving as acting detachment commander since July 2021.
He replaces longtime detachment commander Staff Sgt. Chad Fournier, who has moved on to a different detachment.
In a recent interview, Browne said information provided by the public regarding suspicious persons and activities is always useful.
“We have a limited amount of resources so we always are looking for assistance and help from the public in identifying and reporting any type of criminal activity in the area,” said Browne.
“If you see something occurring it doesn’t hurt to make that call, and you can always call Crime Stoppers if you want to remain anonymous.”
Originally from St. John's, Newfoundland, Browne has been with the RCMP for 22 years, all of it stationed in Alberta, most recently at the Airdrie RCMP detachment.
Targeting habitual or prolific offenders is already one of the priorities of the Didsbury detachment and something Browne says will be continuing in 2022.
“When you deal with statistics, the general underlying theme for the amount of crime that is occurring in our area over the last 18 to 24 months, there has been a specific group of individuals committing crimes,” he said. “These are specific people who either live here or once lived in the immediate area and are familiar with the area. What we’ve found is that overall crime statistics were decreasing when a specific group were incarcerated.”
Asked if the individuals committing crimes in the area are organized together, he said no.
“I wouldn’t refer to them as organized by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “We call them prolific offenders because they are repeat offenders, resulting in them attempting high-value property crime around the rural areas.”
Illegal drug trafficking and usage continue to be problems in many Alberta communities, including in the Didsbury detachment area, he said.
“Drugs affect large communities and cities as well as smaller rural areas,” he said. “Certainly in our area we are not immune to that.”
Asked if the drugs are being made in the area or being brought in from outside, he said, “I haven’t seen evidence to date of any manufacturing in the area, not to say that is not occurring, especially with methamphetamine because it’s an easy substance to create, easier than some of the other substances that have to be imported.
“Didsbury and area is centrally located between Red Deer and Calgary and we’ve got the QEII going right up the middle of it, which is a high-traffic area for trafficking these substances.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact in the area over the past two years, he said.
“We’ve seen an uptick in mental health-related occurrences that I think is directly related to that. It certainly has had an impact on everyone and it doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said.
The Didsbury RCMP detachment’s large geographical area – from east of Didsbury to the West Country – is one of the early challenges he has noticed since arriving in the district.
“It’s quite a large area and it always presents a challenge when you have a large geographical area and a certain amount of resources to police it,” he said. “That always presents a challenge, but that is certainly something we have been able to deal with and handle.”