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Volume 23, Number 10, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Fort to

get full time fire fighters

An additional $8 million for the fight against rural crime was good news this week. More resources are needed in this as in so many things in Alberta.

But I don't agree that rural crime is on the rise.

Crime cannot be measured by police reports. Many crimes — possibly even most crimes — are not reported. Police statistics on everything from speeding tickets to domestic violence can rise quickly following a just few high-profile incidents or even better police enforcement.

The only reliable crime statistic is the murder rate, because murders are almost always reported. Canada's murder rate is lower today than it was in the 1960s. It dropped 20 years ago, and has remained low ever since.

Even if you disagree with my logic, there are few facts to back up the argument that rural crime is on the rise. Reported Canadian rural crime rates are actually unchanged and reported thefts and break ins remain lower than in cities.

The cause of the recent uproar over rural crime is clearly the attention put on the death of Colten Boushie and the recent acquittal of Gerald Stanley.

Many rural residents can see themselves in the same position as Stanley, and therefore naturally defend him.

Urban residents are equally traumatized by break-ins. The feeling is completely understandable.

But it is an emotional response. It is not based on fact or reason and it is not reasonable. We are all pretty safe today.

The best response is to stay calm. Make your property more secure with better locks, cameras and alarms if that helps you feel better. Better still would be to join the local  Rural Crime Watch or get to know your neighbours better.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Music festival wraps up on SundayNEWS/Entries/2018/3/14_Music_festival_wraps_up_on_Sunday.html

Rural crime an emotional issue

Nine full time firefighter positions will be added to Fort Saskatchewan's department, City Council decided Tuesday.

The increase will cost $1.5 million, but is needed, Fire Chief Shawn McKerry told Council. His analysis of fire service since he took over last year shows the average time for the first fire truck to arrive at the fire scene to be 17 minutes and three seconds.

That isn't even close to the expected standard of 10 minutes, and it is due mainly to the time taken for on-call volunteer firefighters just to get to the fire hall, he said.

The information shocked Council members, especially when it was revealed that a 2008 study warned that response times were already slipping even then.

"I'm actually embarrassed," said Mayor Gale Katchur. "It's been 10 years. The population has grown by 70 per cent and we haven't progressed in this.

"I wish this report had come to my attention years ago."

The new full time firefighters will put enough staff at the hall to fill one fire truck at all times day or night, McKerry said. On-call volunteers will still be used to staff additional trucks for major incidents.

The cost of the proposal was a concern to Councillor Brian Kelly. "I think we're opening up a pit here," he said, noting that a fully staffed full time fire department will cost even more than the $3.7 million budget now proposed for the Fort Saskatchewan fire department.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018