RCMP’s new rural crime teams established

Additional Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and a crime analyst in Manitoba’s West law enforcement district are almost ready to begin work in the region three months after the provincial government announced funding for the project.

During his monthly report at the Regular Meeting of Virden Town Council on Tuesday, Staff Sergeant Colby Argue said the area’s new RCMP crime reduction and enforcement team will be available as an additional resource for tracking and enforcing rural property and drug-related crimes. Another six-member team is being established for the East district, while a pre-existing team in the North district was expanded to eight officers and one crime analyst.

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“The mandate is going to be to focus on rural crime; property crime and also drug trafficking,” Staff Sgt. Argue told the Empire-Advance after his presentation. “It is to assist in dealing with issues in rural areas, but not necessarily because of any specific influx (of crime), especially out in the Westman area. In the West, we’ve actually seen a bit of a decline, but this will certainly assist us.”

Last November, the Province of Manitoba announced $1.9 million in annual funding for the RCMP crime reduction and enforcement teams in response to concerns about a perceived increase in rural criminal activity among rural residents. The teams will help area detachments with issues involving repeat offenders and individuals in the illicit drug trade.

During his report to councillors, Staff Sgt. Argue noted that crime statistics show about a 30 per cent decrease in the number of incidents in southwest Manitoba. Nevertheless, the teams have been devised to use statistics as part of their investigation strategy. Argue suggests anyone with a property crime incident – even if they feel it’s not worth it – should be called in. The information allows the teams to watch trends and track the activities of habitual offenders.

Westman drug tip line

Staff Sgt. Argue also outlined a local initiative the Westman RCMP Detachment is developing to improve the enforcement of drug-related offenses.

The detachment is in the process of establishing a telephone tip line where people can anonymously provide information regarding illicit activities surrounding drug trafficking or other related crimes. The callers can provide as much or as little information as they wish by voicemail or text.

“This is to give people an avenue to report anything that they think is suspicious in a safe way,” Argue said. “Maybe they don’t feel comfortable calling the detachment, so we’re going to set up this tip line, put the number out, advertise it in the paper and people can give us any or as much information as they want and know that they’ll be anonymous.”

Otherwise, Argue reported to council that calls to the detachment continue to drop from previous years. In January, Westman RCMP members responded to 48 calls compared to 57 in 2019. Most of these incidents were traffic violations with the others involving property crime, a suspected break and enter incident and a complaint of Internet fraud.

© Virden Empire-Advance