June 18th, 2018

Solution needed for rural crime

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on March 14, 2018.

Rural landowners are feeling under attack. Statistics show that property crime in rural areas is climbing, but rural residents feel powerless to prevent it.

At issue is to what lengths rural homeowners can go to protect their property from theft.

A rural landowner in the Calgary area, Edouard Maurice, is facing aggravated assault and firearms charges after confronting two people rummaging through his vehicles. Police reported shots were fired and a suspect was later found with an arm injury.

The case, following on the heels of the recent trial of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley, who was acquitted in the shooting death of an indigenous man, has ramped up the debate over the rights of rural residents in defending their property from intruders.

In a Canadian Press story in Tuesday’s Herald, Kevin Avram of the Grassroots Alberta Landowners Association suggested homeowners shouldn’t be penalized for trying to protect their property.

“Many landowners are getting the very distinct impression that the criminal element of the province is being sent a signal – and the signal is that landowners are free prey,” said Avram.

In the same story, Alberta RCMP Supt. John Bennett noted rural property crime has grown by 23 per cent over the past five years, though violent crimes are down over that period.

“We understand completely that people feel vulnerable and frustrated,” said Bennett.

However, Bennett encouraged residents to leave the task of confronting suspected criminals to the police instead of tackling the situation themselves.

“You never know how someone may react when confronted,” Bennett said. “We don’t want to see anyone getting hurt.”

That is a potential outcome of landowners taking matters into their own hands. If robbery suspects prove to be armed, it could be the rural homeowners who wind up injured or worse. That’s a situation police want to avoid in issuing their warnings.

But to the landowners, it seems the justice system is on the side of the criminals and turned against them when they see homeowners charged for trying to defend their property. Bill Ferguson, who lives near Vulcan, was one of about 150 rural landowners who showed up at the Okotoks courthouse in support of Maurice.

“This is something that a lot more of us are going to run into if there’s not some change in our laws,” Ferguson said in a Canadian Press story. “I feel it’s ridiculous that we can’t protect our own home and family.”

Eric Johaniuk of High River expressed a similar sentiment, noting, “The problem is the crooks are getting nothing. It’s just a laugh. You have no right to defend yourself.”

In Tuesday’s CP story, RCMP Sgt. Colin Sawrenko said, “There’s a million and one what-if scenarios. The key word is reasonableness – that’s what you have to remember. If it’s somebody stealing gas, what is reasonable? I don’t have that answer for you.”

Rural landowners need the answers. Some rural residents live a considerable distance away from the nearest law enforcement. Does that mean if intruders trespass onto their land, are they supposed to let thieves make off with their property and simply try to give police a description later? Would Edouard Maurice be facing charges if he had just shot out the tires of the suspect’s vehicles? Is firing a gun to try to scare intruders away a crime?

Perhaps the solution is something akin to the efforts of the Alberta Citizens on Patrol Association, whose volunteers work in pairs to report suspicious activity, but avoid direct confrontations.

Whatever the solution, rural landowners are understandably concerned. They need the help of their communities, law enforcement and the justice system to deal with the problem of increasing rural crime.

Comment on this editorial online at https://www.lethbridgeherald.com/opinions/.

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5 Responses to “Solution needed for rural crime”

  1. phlushie says:

    As a corollary to this. If a hiker goes hiking for a high and gets stranded, he gets a bill for the cost of his rescue. If a drug addict wishes to get high and overdoses, the tax payer gets billed the cost of his rescue. It seems that the drug users and criminals have all the rights with no consequences for their actions.

  2. McStronze says:

    I agree with your analogy. If we keep electing Socalist and Left Wing governments in this country this will only get worse…….OH Canada……

  3. biff says:

    nothing to with the fables we construe as “left” and “right”. that is just part of the smoke and mirrors game that keeps us thinking we have an effective democracy. look at the alberta ndp – now giving money away to the private petrochemical industry to the tune of a billion dollars?! why not instead invest in a public oil/gas company? like the privates, hire the expertise, the workers, and make real money for the people of alberta alongside the creation of jobs and the subsequent tax revenue. that would make us all the wealthier, and would put us more fairly and squarely in control of our wealth.

    as for property crime and being able to defend ourselves, it is not merely a rural issue. we should have every right to repel crime in our backyard and home in every jurisdiction.
    meanwhile, when people have a chance to earn an honest living, and earn a livable wage, they will choose that path over a criminal one. hard for that to happen, though, when most of the wealth pie is being hogged away by a relative few greedy dirtballs.

  4. Jagtech says:

    No, don’t shoot their tires out. The last thing you want is these creeps stuck on your property with no way to leave. But if you choose to do that, better to just take Ralph’s advice “Shoot, Shovel and Shut up”.

    But seriously, rural crime is a real issue. The police just cannot respond in a reasonable time, which leaves us landowners easy prey. I’m certain we’re going to see a lot more violent confrontations in the near future.
    Time to bring in a “Three Strikes” law in Canada. Maybe Justin could uh, step up to the uh, plate with a common sense solution?

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