In an effort to reduce police response times for communities in rural Alberta, Alberta Sheriff highway patrol officers will have expanded powers to respond to traffic incidents.
The expansion, first announced on Friday, is part of the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Response (RAPID) initiative.
With the new changes, an additional 260 officers will be able to respond to traffic incidents.
Originally, Alberta traffic sheriffs only had the power to enforce Traffic Safety Act violations and investigate collisions but now they will be able to engage with criminal offences like impaired driving.
“We are taking action to address the very real issue of crime in rural Alberta,” said the province’s justice minister Kaycee Madu.
“We know Albertans have been frustrated with response times in rural areas, and we are committed to making sure they feel safe and protected in their communities,” Madu added. “More boots on the ground means authorities can respond more quickly when Albertans need them. It will also deter crime and make our highways and communities safer.”
In recent years, the Alberta government has introduced several measures in order to crack down on the problem of rural crime.
Provincial and wildlife officers were granted new powers to respond to RCMP calls for backup in April as part of the RAPID initiative. Since being in effect, the program added an additional 140 peace officers who can help respond to rural crime incidents.
According to Statistics Canada, rural residents in the Prairies are impacted by higher rates of property crime than those living in urban areas.
“As with most property crimes, rates of break and enter and motor vehicle theft were higher in the Prairie provinces, especially Alberta. In 2017, police reported 978 break and enter incidents per 100,000 population in rural Alberta,” claimed a 2017 Statistics Canada report.