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Take back the street, says Deer Ridge

Citizen patrols, locked gates and better lights were just some of the ideas Deer Ridge residents had this week as they met to fight crime in their neighbourhood.

Citizen patrols, locked gates and better lights were just some of the ideas Deer Ridge residents had this week as they met to fight crime in their neighbourhood.

About 20 residents met at the Lacombe Clubhouse Thursday night for a crime prevention meeting.

Resident Bob Fullerton organized the meeting with the city after an apparent spate of vandalism this summer, one that saw homes trashed and cars smashed. "They even had the car jacked up and ready to pull the wheels off when somebody caught them," he said, recalling one incident.

Deer Ridge has been a great place to live, said long-time resident Bruce Allen, but seems to have changed in the last five years. He spoke about seeing gangs of youths roaming the streets at 4 a.m., and boozing in local parks. "Where are the parents?" he asked.

Recent road construction has brought more traffic and criminals to the neighbourhood, said Craig, a retired cop who did not want to give his last name. "The frustrating thing is that I can see the change happening," he said. "What we're seeing here is happening in Sherwood Park and happening in Leduc."

The big picture

Police responded to about 652 service calls in Deer Ridge last year, said city crime analyst Samara Birch, — slightly more than the area's five-year average of 601. Of the calls that were crimes, 21 per cent involved suspects aged 15 to 24. Crimes were most likely to occur on Sundays and Wednesdays during the summer between 12 and 4 a.m.

Deer Ridge is going through a demographic transition, said RCMP Cpl. Laurel Kading, which is one part of the problem. "You came in with little kids, and now they're growing up." Deer Ridge has the biggest high-school population in the city, Birch noted. That's lead to some vibrant schools but also some bored, frustrated youth during the summers. "If they're angry youth that don't feel engaged by the community, they're going to lash out."

And it's not all high-schoolers, she emphasized. Some 15 per cent of the calls from this region involved suspects over 25.

Craig was one of several residents frustrated with police response to calls. "I want to know what the hell is going on where I can't get a response to three kids in a red Mustang shooting pellet guns," Craig said. He called it in, but the police didn't show — not even after 45 minutes. "When I phone, I want to see a police car."

That's too long a wait for a gun call, Kading agreed, but the police can't be everywhere all the time. "We are only half the equation," she said. "We're only as effective as the community that helps us."

Kading encouraged residents to use block parties and conversation to strengthen ties in their community. Braeside did so, and now has a community newsletter, volunteer night patrols and less crime.

Deer Ridge has a lot of kids and not a lot of places for them to go, Fullteron said. "Maybe that's 50 per cent of the trouble." He suggested the neighbourhood get a grant from the city to create a community centre. Other residents suggested a Citizens On Patrol group, better lighting at trouble spots and locked gates at schools.

Simply talking to troublemakers is often enough to make them stop, Allen said, recounting his own experience. "We have to take back our parks and streets," he said. "If you see something out there, report it."

The group planned to hold a second meeting later this year. Call neighbourhood development coordinator Chantal Normand at 780-418-6055 ext. 3086 for details.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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