Beef producers in south-central Manitoba want more police presence in response to rising rural crime.
The issue spawned a resolution during the Baldur meeting of the Manitoba Beef Producers. Members at the regular district meeting Oct. 30 overwhelmingly supported a call for more police resources in rural areas.
Why it matters: Residents from Somerset to Cartwright are noting a jump in robberies, thefts and vandalism, and they say local police are too few and far between.
“A couple of years ago our neighbours and us got hit with a robbery,” the resolution’s mover, Dave Koslowsky, said, also pointing to serious crime incidents in the area over the last month.
The Pembina Valley RCMP arrested four people following an armed robbery in Somerset last month. The Somerset Hotel was robbed at gunpoint in the early afternoon Oct. 22 when a male and female entered the hotel and demanded cash.
The two then fled in a stolen vehicle, previously stolen from Portage la Prairie, according to a release from the RCMP. Police immediately started a search and found the stolen car, which had hit the ditch north of Cartwright on Highway 5. Police arrested the 19-year-old female still at the car, but were forced to pursue the second suspect, who had stolen yet another vehicle after cutting through a cornfield.
Police immediately found and stopped the stolen pickup truck, arresting the 25-year-old man.
Police later identified two others suspected to be connected to the crime and arrested a 43-year-old man and 25-year-old woman at Crystal City.
“We just need more coverage and more protection out there,” Koslowsky said.
The Killarney RCMP, which cover his area, have few officers for the geographic range they are responsible for, he argued.
“If you call for them, it could be up to an hour and a half before they get to you,” he argued. “They cover long areas and I don’t think it’s quite right where urban areas, they’re covered. They’re there in minutes.”
Don McIntyre, who seconded the resolution, has also had a recent brush with crime. The producer had bale wrappings vandalized in August, something that could have ruined that feed if he had not noticed the damage in time.
“It happened just at the start of our grain harvest,” he said. “I noticed that there was something wrong with the plastic on the bale. We went out to look and sure enough, it had been cut. We had about 700 cut. Our neighbours had about 300 cut.”
McIntyre managed to get those 700 bales rewrapped with some help from neighbours and has fed some of those bales, without any apparent ill effect. His bales had luckily been ensiled for longer than his neighbours and, with the quick rewrap, were at less risk of spoilage, he noted.
The RCMP were called after the vandalism and were pleasant and attentive to the issue, McIntyre said, but the vandals were long gone and investigation was hard pressed to find them.
There is no longer a local RCMP detachment at Crystal City and other local detachments have been rolled back, McIntyre noted.
Cartwright recently hosted a meeting outlining personal safety, given the spate of rural crime.
McIntyre says attendees were encouraged to invest in camera systems with signage, motion lighting and deadbolt locks.
“It’s so concerning,” he said. “We never used to do anything. We could leave vehicles unlocked or houses unlocked and never worry. But now we do. I don’t know if it will ever get back to the way it was before.”
Rural crime emerged as a campaign issue during September’s provincial election.
The Progressive Conservatives, re-elected when Manitoba went to the polls Sept. 10, had promised $2.8 million to add 12 officers and two analysts to the province. The additional resources would bolster the existing northern crime reduction team and launch similar teams in Eastern and Western Canada.
The crime reduction teams deal with collecting, aggregating and analyzing intelligence, which can then be passed on to local detachments for action.
At the time, the party pointed to its push for “intelligence-based policing” during its first term.
The MBP resolution will now go before the group’s general membership during its annual meeting in February.