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Innisfail Mounties host first town hall meeting

Almost three dozen citizens attend on a bad weather night to get overview of best practices for crime prevention

INNISFAIL — Keeping in line with its recent council-approved strategic priorities for 2022, Innisfail RCMP went ahead with its first Community Town Hall Meeting last week and communication was the number one issue on the minds of attendees.

The 90-minute forum at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104 that was held during a blustery and rain-soaked evening on June 23 attracted about 35 citizens and town council members.

The town hall, which was facilitated by Innisfail RCMP Staff Sgt. Chris Matechuk, included the attendance of senior district RCMP officials, along with members of Innisfail’s protective services, including Gary Leith, manager of fire and protective services and Joy Milne, the chair of the town’s Policing & Safe Community Committee.

Matechuk opened with a brief overview of the RCMP’s performance plan for this year, which was initially recommended by the RCMP district office to focus on crime reduction and police community relations.

However, with additional input from the local policing committee’s Community Safety Survey for 2022 the RCMP chose to expand its priorities to include community engagement, which led local RCMP to create town hall meetings.

“The town hall event is a good example of us trying to engage and for our police officers to attend any functions or any activities within the community,” Matechuk told his audience, adding the policing committee also recommended through the results of its survey for the RCMP to focus on multi agency enforcement operations, such as partnering with Innisfail peace officers, provincial fish and wildlife officers and CP Police Service.

“And we try to do enforcement activities with them in the town. As long as it’s in sight of the railway CP Police can assist us in all traffic activities.”

As for crime in Innisfail for the first five months of 2022, Matechuk said RCMP has seen a three per cent decrease compared to the same period of 2021.

He said areas where there have been some increases include theft under $5,000 complaints and theft of motor vehicles.

“So, we're sitting not too bad but we always can do better work; we can always do more work,” said Matechuk.

The town hall audience was also presented with a full overview of the Community Safety Survey for 2022, which was conducted for almost the entire month of April.

Ken Kowalchuk, the town's communications coordinator, told citizens and council members that there were 167 responses to the survey, which included 12 questions.

The results of the survey show that more than 90 per cent of Innisfailians feel the community is either very safe, safe or somewhat safe, with less than 10 per cent feeling it is either unsafe or very unsafe.

However, from the more than two dozen citizens who attended the June 23rd town hall meeting there were still concerns, notably communications; specifically getting a hold of an RCMP member to respond promptly to a complaint.

There were specific concerns put to Matechuk about an ongoing loud parking lot party at the Innisfail Schools Campus and another over suspicious activity in a residential area but police response, said attendees, was unsatisfactory.

Some attendees just wanted clarification on best police phone numbers to call.

Matechuk, as well as Leith, assured attendees that every call was important and if a complaint was not responded appropriately by their offices they wanted to know.

“We don't know what problems happen until somebody reports them, and unfortunately we find out sometimes through social media that there's a problem before we actually get a complaint with regard to the problem,” said Leith.

“And what we'd ask is that the public report crime, any anti social behavior and report incidents as they happen, whether that be through 911 if they're an emergency issue, or the complaint line if it's not an emergency. We can then build that picture up and know what's going on.”

Matechuk told the audience that if any resident does not get a response from a complain they can call him directly.

“My expectation is that if you phoned the police, you deserve a call back. I can't guarantee 100 per cent it's been done but if it isn't please call me and I'll address it,” said Matechuk.