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Commentary: Crime victims deserve timely access

For more than 30 years, Alberta’s victim services units have provided much-needed support and assistance to residents of all ages

Victims of crime in rural and urban communities, including in this district, should and must be able to count on comprehensive support going forward.

Whether changes planned by the provincial government in the way those victims are helped will be good or bad for those involved remains to be seen. 

What is known is that with criminal activity continuing to impact residents young and old, a lot is riding on the success or failure of the changes.

The provincial government plans to switch Alberta’s 60 regional victim services units (VSU) over to four centralized regions by April 2024.

The units currently support victims of crime in partnership with the RCMP, municipal police services and community-based programs. Unit members accompany victims to court and respond to calls for support following crimes.

Alberta’s justice ministry reportedly says the move towards amalgamation from “independent and dissimilar” organizations to “integrated and coordinated regional” organizations will be beneficial to victims provincewide.

However, the 69-member Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) is not sure the move to a zonal model is the best thing for Alberta and is pushing back against the initiative.

In a recent bulletin the association outlined its concerns with the planned new system, including that a "standardized regional approach to victim services delivery will replace the flexible and local focus of the existing model” and that the “disconnection of victim services from local police detachments under a regional model will risk timely access to the service for victims.”

For more than 30 years, Alberta’s VSUs have provided much-needed support and assistance to residents of all ages who unfortunately end up becoming victims of criminal activity.

Replacing the current system with a new zonal model is a big step that has the potential to cause uncertainty for some of the province’s most vulnerable citizens.

As such, the provincial government should, at the very least, give the RMA’s concerns the weight and consideration they deserve prior to the planned April changeover.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.

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