Several communities have approached ARDN to discuss the issue of rural crime. It appears crime has been increasing along with a lack of police presence and resources to tackle these issues. Furthermore, with Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer currently touring Alberta to seek input on the issue of rural crime, it’s apparent rural crime has been brought to the forefront of development. As such, ARDN began researching and looking into potential opportunities for the implementation of a crime-related initiative.
Before beginning any work it was important we compared these reports with available data. According to Statistics Canada, crime rates have been steadily decreasing since 2009 and while crime rates in rural areas have been much larger than those in their urban counterparts, rural crime has still dropped by ~3%. This contradicted the reports we were receiving from communities as community perceptions implied that crime was on the rise. From this, we considered that maybe communities and victims weren’t reporting these crimes which is why reported crime rates were actually quite lower than predicted. True to our beliefs, Statistics Canada noted that only 14% of rural Canadians stated they were a victim of a crime in the past year while about 19% of urban Canadians responded the same way.
From this, the ARDN developed an idea to conduct a research project examining community perceptions and crime reporting. This project would determine if rural crime is underreported, why victims of crime are not reporting, and ways to motivate residents to report instances of crime to the appropriate authorities. Moreover, from these findings, we would like to develop a Toolkit and conduct education sessions on general crime awareness and best practices. This project will allow us to confirm if rural crime is actually underreported and if so, will allow us to advocate for more police presence or funding for rural crime initiatives.
With the findings, we hope to bring more attention to the issue of rural crime using evidence-based research and practice. If you haven’t already, please fill out the Rural Crime Engagement Survey sent out by the Justice and Solicitor General.