Coaldale RCMP is implementing a new program to try and help repeat offenders not offend again.
During their regular Aug 3 meeting, the County of Lethbridge council met with Coaldale RCMP Staff Sgt. Glenn Henry, who updated them on a tactic they’ve recently implemented to help prevent crime.
“We’re going to something new this year,” said Henry. “We’re doing a habitual management program. The basis of the program is — it’s fairly new to us, it’s been around for a little while — but what we do is identify prolific offenders within our community, and we focus on those people.
Giving an example of a fictional person causing 20 calls in the last couple of months, Henry said that they would approach that individual and talk about “our issues with him and his criminality”.
“We’ll offer him some help, assistance in trying to curb his underlying conditions that result in criminality, and if he chooses not to accept this help, then we devote what we can to enhance enforcement with him, with the idea that he’ll relocate to a different community, or be relocated to a provincial correctional centre,” said Henry.
“The idea is to identify on the people causing us the most work, and to focus on those people in a very high profile manner.”
Although it will be the RCMP officers themselves focusing on those individuals, they are able to utilize sources such as victim services, child family services and probation services. Noting that every situation is unique, Henry said that they will do whatever they can to help that person.
“I guess the idea behind this is a few people cause us a lot of work. Let’s identify those people who are causing us a lot of work and try to prevent it.”
Coun. John Wilms said that it did sound like the RCMP were giving repeat offenders a lot of breaks in this program. Henry said that although they will try to help them, if they don’t want to be helped they won’t hold back either.
“You can be my friend, or you can be my enemy. You want to be my friend because we can help you, but if you choose not to change your path, you won’t like me very well,” said Henry. “We’re going to come visit you on a regular basis to see how you’re doing, and those people that are coming to your house and want to sell drugs or fence stolen property will meet your new friends too, and they might not like you as well. We will make your life here miserable, so accept our help and let’s get you back to being a productive citizen, because that’s what we want, ultimately.”
“We know putting people in jail is just a revolving door, we would like to try to identify those underlying things,” said Henry.
Ultimately though, it will be the individual who decides if they want help, ever if the RCMP extend their hand first.
Henry noted that for those who don’t want help, the resulting increased police presence had caused them to leave the community, adding that crime doesn’t just stop at their border
Coun. Tom White said that their repeated visit could be seen as harassment, saying that while the RCMP might not see it like that, “if you’re on the other side I’m sure you would”. Henry said he didn’t like that term, as they are there to provide help.
“The police officers are friendly people and they just like to talk to people,” said Ken Benson, county councilor.
“It’s not they’re fault they’re going to do it in the public eye, that people see you talking to them.”
“This is not enforcement at the start, this clearly is ‘We’re here to help you because we’re tired of you too’. And I think, it’s a unique relationship, policing and people involved with the criminal justice system for years, and some of these older guys, you talk to them and they say, ‘You know what? I’m just tired of playing this game of getting caught and going to jail’. They’re tired of this revolving window, right, this cycle here,” said Henry. “Some people want our help, some people just don’t know where to get in. And I guess we’ll use our office to try and leverage any type of help we can get for these people.
“The example in the United States is very clear. Just throwing people in jail isn’t the answer. They eventually come out there, and are people who go to jail, in our society, coming out as better people? Sometimes they come out as better criminals because of the education they have there, interacting with their fellow inmates type thing.”