Money well spent

The practice of throwing money at problem is something governments believe will ultimately solve a problem or situation. All too often government’s response to problems or issues is to simply allocate vast amounts of money to the problem often without a strategic plan for the way forward. All too often this approach fails to accomplish little in the way of tangible results that could be considered good value for taxpayer dollars.

Albertans are generally innovative and forward thinkers; an example of using innovative forward thinking has been recently implemented by the Hanna Rural Crime Watch Association. In cooperation with the Hanna RCMP detachment the board of the Hanna Rural Crime watch has successfully launched a phone application that has citizens in the community actively participating in crime prevention in real time. In addition to the obvious benefits, regular updates and crime prevention tips will be sent out to users on a regular basis.

The application will allow community members to report suspicious activities and/or persons who will include the exact geographical location of the suspicious activity or crime. Reporting an incident through this application also allows users the ability to include pictures and written reports that will be monitored by the Constables from the Hanna detachment. Notifications or reported incidents are automatically sent to other users in the designated area further hampering the activities of the criminal element.

Alberta’s vast rural communities can be a logistical challenge for RCMP Constables who simply cannot be everywhere all the time. The additional citizen initiated monitoring that they now have on the ground through the Rural Crime Watch app users will be an economical alternative to most other approaches we’ve seen on rural crime. It needs to be stressed that this application is NOT an alternative to 911 emergency services.

The obvious problem would be that if citizens can monitor what is going on in real time, so can the criminal element, Hanna Rural Crime Watch and the application developers have taken this into consideration. Potential users of the application must be approved to download the app by the administrators which add another essential level of security to the system.

As opposed to throwing large sums of money at the out of control rural crime we’ve seen in recent years, this program is very economical. The initial development of a rural crime watch chapter’s application is $749, in addition to the cost of development a yearly fee of $375 per year for updates and hosting. With the potential impact this can have on rural crime, a monthly cost of $31.25 you would be hard pressed to find a better value for the money.

The Rural Crime Watch program was originally developed in 1978 to be “the eyes and ears of rural Alberta,” supported by the Alberta Cattle Commission, the Western Stock Growers’ Association, the Farmers Advocate, and the RCMP. The forward thinking by the Hanna chapter of Rural Crime Watch has shown that innovative ideas can often offer solutions to problems that throwing money at them does not accomplish.

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