The Cochrane Foothills Protective Association (CFPA) has connected rural communities in an effort to understand and deter crime for the past 47 years.
The issue of rural crime is not a new phenomenon, according to CFPA director Jim Willson, but neither is the group’s core value building on the connection of neighbours helping neighbours.
“People are very willing to do that,” he said. “To me, that’s a huge piece.”
It was 1969 when Willson said a number of concerned ranchers west of Calgary gathered because they felt a need to be proactive against crime. Though not in the realm of “vigilantism,” the ranchers began to conduct range patrols to try and deal with rural crime through awareness, he said, adding the CFPA formed an incorporated society in 1970.
“It organized some of their work they were doing to try and reduce crime,” he said.
The CFPA currently has 130 members. While the group doesn’t operate within any official boundaries, the CFPA tends to focus on the area serviced by Cochrane RCMP.
“Criminals have no boundaries,” he said.
The context for rural crime is vastly different than the city, with typically slower police response times, neighbours spread farther apart and businesses, such as farms and ranches, attached to homesteads, he said.
The CFPA encourages communities to develop some form of crime prevention strategy capable of warning neighbours if someone witnesses suspicious activity, or is the victim of a crime. Crafting a strategy tailored to a community can take time, Willson said, as well as hard work and energy.
“My encouragement to folks is to do something,” Willson said. “Start with that and make it a priority.”
The public is encouraged to learn more about the CFPA and rural crime prevention at its annual general meeting hosted at the Frank Wills Memorial Hall, located at 405 1st Street East Cochrane at 1 p.m. April 8.
The topics of surveillance and crime prevention tools will be touched on through a Cochrane RCMP presentation, as well as a discussion with Alberta Fish and Wildlife on trail cameras for crime detection and deterrence, he said.
“Folks can find out more about rural crime to begin with,” Willson said. “They can also learn more about the organization and whether it is relevant to them.”