Rural Crime Watch programs are very effective in reducing the incidence of thefts and break-ins, according to RCMP Corporal Mel Zurevinsky.
“At last count, there are 97 Rural Crime Watches active or getting developed,” Zurevinsky told delegates to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) Division 5 meeting in Saskatoon on Monday, June 11. “Since 2016, the program has really been revitalized across the province.
“Rural Saskatchewan is solidly behind this program, because it works.”
Zurevinsky said Rural Crime Watch programs were common in the 1990s, but by the mid-2000s, many of the local organizations had declined.
“In the summer of 2016, I was hearing a lot about the rise in property crime in rural communities,” said Zurevinsky. “We started to see the local Rural Crime Watch chapters get going again. The RCMP firmly supports these initiatives, but they’re run by local people.”
Zurevinsky said the Edenwold and district Rural Crime Watch organization is particularly effective.
“It’s about being vigilant in your own community, keeping track of suspicious vehicles or people or unusual occurrences, and reporting it to the Crime Watch group and to police.”
He said it’s also important for people to report thefts and other incidents, no matter how small, because police use every piece of evidence in their investigations, and sometimes a lot of small things add up to something big.
“I can’t stress this enough. Rural Saskatchewan needs to start doing this to help us do our job,” said Zurevinsky. “As an example, in the Wawota area, farmers started seeing thefts of batteries, from vehicles, augers, and other farm machinery. It was odd that just the batteries, a small item, were stolen. Some people wouldn’t report something like that.
“But when there were so many, that put up a red flag. The RCMP took note. One night around 3:00 a.m. a police patrol stopped a pickup truck. The odd thing about this truck was that it had a bunch of batteries in the back.
“It turned out the thieves were using the acid in the batteries to cook up crystal meth, and then they were taking the batteries to the recycler where they got ten bucks each for them.
“If the police didn’t have that prior knowledge of the stolen batteries, there would have been no reason to follow up on that vehicle stop.”
Zurevinsky said people should always record serial numbers on their equipment, large and small, so that if stolen items are recovered, they can be returned to the registered owner.
“Having those records is very helpful in bringing evidence to a court case,” said Zurevinsky.
Information on starting a Rural Crime Watch organization, and other resources including signage, is available from SARM.
Corman Park Reeve Judy Harwood, who is also SARM Division 5 Director, is a strong supporter of the program. She helped organize a Rural Crime Watch group in her area of Corman Park in the 1990s, and the group is still going strong.
“It does take work to get it going and keep it going, but it is worth it,” said Harwood.
SARM President Ray Orb said although the emotions and rhetoric triggered by the Gerald Stanley trial have cooled somewhat in the past few months, rural property crime is still very much on the minds of farmers and acreage owners.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the province,” said Orb. “The crime rates are still pretty high.
“The RCMP say the rates have dropped in the last little while, and that’s obviously a good thing. I think it may be because of the things we’re doing along with the RCMP.
“The big spike in Rural Crime Watch groups starting up in the last little while, I think is a very positive initiative. We’re seeing better awareness out there.”