MILLET (660 NEWS) – The UCP government is taking more steps to address issues of rural crime in Alberta after weeks of town hall meetings across the province.
The three new measures introduced Wednesday in Millet include tougher rules for trespassers on rural properties, higher fines and additional training for law enforcement.
In an effort to reduce response times, the government says it will create the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force (RAPID Force) by expanding the roles and authorities of hundreds of peace officers.
“These changes will provide an additional 400 [officers] to assist the RCMP and other police services to ensure security is deployed in response to 911 calls more quickly and as effectively as possible,” said Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.
Those officers should be trained and ready to go by the end of next fall according to the UCP.
The government also says it will be adjusting the Occupiers’ Liability Act to better “defend the rights of law-abiding property owners”. The changes will be aimed at eliminating the liability of law-abiding property owners who are protecting their property against trespassers who are, or who are believed to be, committing a crime.
There’s also a proposal to increase maximum trespassing fines five-fold.
Schweitzer said many of these changes were in response to the case of Eddie Maurice.
Maurice was charged after he shot and wounded an intruder who had been ransacking a truck on his property near Okotoks in February 2018. The charges were eventually stayed but the intruder, Ryan Watson, is now suing Maurice for pain and suffering and lost wages.
“Every rural Albertan can relate to Eddie Maurice. Are they the next Eddie Maurice? Is it their loved one? Is it their child? You can be faced with that exact situation where you have a little one in the home and you’re faced with that situation where there’s someone on your property committing a criminal act.”
Premier Jason Kenney has said the lawsuit against a law-abiding citizen trying to defend his property is an outrage.
The government intends to roll out these changes in January.