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State of emergency for Calling Lake, Alta., extended as community meets to discuss crime solutions

A local state of emergency in a northern Alberta community is being extended a week after it was implemented during a crime wave.

Marshall Auger, the reeve of the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17, told reporters after a meeting with homeowners, the local MLA and RCMP on Wednesday in Calling Lake that "we're not at a point where we feel confident" to lift the order.

The municipal district enacted the state of emergency on Oct. 11 in response to a spike in crimes, including motor vehicle theft and break-and-enters, in and around the hamlet of 450 people located 190 kilometres north of Edmonton.

"We still have the issues that we're dealing with," Auger told reporters outside the community complex following the meeting. "Until we feel really good about where things are at, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done before we look at lifting it."

The meeting came in the midst of a sharp rise in crime year over year in the municipal district, particularly around Calling Lake.

Crime statistics from January to September this year supplied by the RCMP show the number of break-and-enter incidents have risen 83 per cent from 2022 while motor-vehicle thefts are up 160 per cent.

Declaring the local state of emergency allows the municipal district to allocate money to pay for additional security personnel and police officers.

Auger told CTV News Edmonton last week the municipal district is also looking at adding security cameras to help patrol hotspots and major intersections. He said that the municipal district has been pushing for a dedicated RCMP detachment for several years. The closest detachment is in Athabasca, about 50 kilometres away.

"We think that the size of the community and with what we're dealing with, it warrants having a detachment right here, which means 24 hour coverage in this community and not having to wait 45 minutes to two hours to get response time on things," Auger said Wednesday. "The criminals know that they have that time, and they take advantage of that."

Scott Sinclair, the MLA for the Lesser Slave Lake riding that includes Calling Lake, said he and others who attended the meeting "have a little bit of homework" to do moving forward to address the problem beyond the short term.

"We believe that Albertans and the community and residents of Calling Lake and the area, even though they're in the remote part of northern Alberta, fundamentally deserve the rights to raise and to live in communities where public safety is paramount," he said. "We need to restore common sense law and order. They've reached out to us for help ...

"When they talk about how terrifying it is, it's one thing to talk about crime and statistics on a spreadsheet, it's a completely different when you have bullets flying through your window when you're in your own home, or that terrifying feeling of somebody breaking in and holding guns. We need to make sure that we're providing the support for these people."

Sinclair said he hopes the province can deploy sheriffs to the area but that the municipal district would need to ask the RCMP first.

Chief Superintendent Gary Graham, the officer in charge of the RCMP's Eastern Alberta District, said some of the next steps could include bringing additional special officers into the area to look at property crimes to "try and see if we can identify the prolific offenders," and placing more officers in the area around the clock and to patrol overnight.

He said Calling Lake's troubles aren't something that will be solved simply by adjusting policing methods.

"This isn't a policing problem all by itself. This is collaborative. Provincial agencies wrap around the community itself strategies that they might have. This whole meeting was (to discuss) what can we do to work together to come to some solutions."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Miriam Valdes-Carletti and Dave Mitchell Top Stories

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