The City of Red Deer is set to undertake a comprehensive policing review to see if its current contractual policing arrangement with the RCMP is the best fit for the growing central Alberta hub.
In what will be the third of its kind in the past 15 years, the review may finally address whether the city should consider creating its own municipal police force, join forces with neighbouring municipalities to create a regional police service or whether the current status quo should continue.
Paul Goranson, director of protective services for the city, said last week that policing and how best to provide services was a common question raised during the 2017 municipal election campaign.
Goranson said as the population continues to climb above the 100,000 mark, people are wondering if the current service is in fact the best way to police the city.
Under the current agreement, the city pays about $26 million per year for the RCMP contract, which represents about 90 per cent of the total cost. The province and federal governments pay the remainder.
The RCMP employs 170 members in the Red Deer area, Goranson said.
“The review really is about seeing the benefits and pros of differing governance models,” he said.
The other part of the process will be a value-for-money assessment that has been undertaken by municipal councils in other areas of the province to look at the overall operations costs and compare those against benchmarks of other programs and other municipalities, he said.
“I don’t know if there is a silver bullet … it’s just that sometimes the grass is greener on the other side,” he said.
According to a request for proposals, the successful consultant will be asked to gather data from places like Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie and farther afield like Abbotsford and Langley in British Columbia to see how they offer policing services.
The review is a “fact finding mission” which won’t require community consultations.
One of the key questions that will need to be addressed is whether there comes a point at which Red Deer outgrows having an RCMP detachment. Red Deer is currently one of the sixth largest detachments in Canada.
The policing budget uses 18 per cent of the total city tax revenue but “the city currently has little input or control over the policing expenses except through decisions on the number of members,” the request for proposals said.
Despite the impression that crime rates are on the rise, Goranson said the 2018 numbers are down across many of the main crime statistic indicators.
A recent report shows that there have been decreases in property crime totals and persons crimes when compared to the same time period in 2017.
Break and enters in the third quarter have dropped to 979 so far in 2018 from 1,129 in 2017, representing a 13 per cent decrease.
Theft of motor vehicles is down during the same period to 728 in 2018 from 1,148 in 2017. The 37 per cent decrease is the lowest theft of vehicle numbers Red Deer has seen in five years.
Goranson said based on the 2011 review, once a consultant has been selected, it could be 12 to 18 months before the findings are released.
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