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Tending to crime

St. Albert is one of the safest communities in Alberta and routinely ranks among the best Canadian cities to live in, but we can’t forget crime happens here, too.

Many parents remain on edge following a string of robberies targeting the city’s youth, and tips continue to flow in to the RCMP. Officers are still on the lookout for the suspects involved, who held up several youths last month with what appeared to be a firearm and demanded their cellphones or other property.

The charged atmosphere in St. Albert peaked last week when a young woman reported what she believed to be an attempted kidnapping by two men. Although the RCMP, after investigating, found it not to be suspicious, they thanked her for calling in what was no doubt a terrifying experience.

How well our city ranks on paper is small comfort to those who have already experienced a crime, and residents are rightly on high alert. The brash robberies may be the latest ones to hit St. Albert, but they are not the only ones. The past few months have seen several armed robberies of businesses, and St. Albert regularly sees its fair share of property crime as well, whether that be thefts from vehicles or mischief. If you go to the courthouse on any regular docket day, you’ll see drug charges, assault charges and more.

As the RCMP keeps up the fight to curb and solve crime in this city, the rest of us should not dismiss crime as something that happens elsewhere. It isn’t unusual here, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in fear, either.

Being the victim of a crime can be an incredibly isolating experience. One way to help those people feel safer in our community, as well as help safeguard neighbourhoods against crime, is through the city’s block party program.

Aside from myriad summer events drawing residents together, the city offers a wealth of resources on its excellent block party program, which has been wildly successful in past years. In 2017, the city held 167 such parties and was crowned the block party capital of Canada. Last year, another 117 block parties brought residents together. Neighbourhood Watch and Citizen’s Patrol provide free food at these parties, and organizers often distribute crime prevention flyers as well. As block party season approaches, the city has also been running “boot camps” for residents interested in bringing their neighbours together.

A year ago, St. Albert RCMP Cpl. Laurel Kading told the Gazette block parties are an important part of crime prevention, as they encourage residents to look out for each other as they get to know one another.

“It really is a huge step forward in crime prevention,” she said.

RCMP officers often go to these parties as well to build connections with residents and answer any questions they might have.

These kinds of connections help to fortify our neighbourhoods against crime and help to bring residents together instead of dividing them through fear. If residents take advantage of them, it could be one of the safest things they can do.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.