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Alberta

Province of Alberta puts criminals on notice!

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Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

Ministers Jason Nixon, Rick Wilson and Doug Schweitzer announced further steps to combat rural crime, which includes expanded authorities and roles for Government of Alberta peace officers from the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch and the Alberta Sheriffs.

From The Province of Alberta

Government announces plan to combat rural crime

The province is standing up for rural Albertans by acting on concerns to deter crime, reinforce property rights and give victims a stronger voice in the justice system.

“We are sending a strong signal to rural Albertans who have been victimized for far too long. We have listened to you. We have heard you. And we are standing with you. We want to ensure you know that we are going to do everything we can as a provincial government to help you feel safe in your communities.”

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General

“In many ways, rural communities are the heart of this province – hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, and always ready and willing to lend a hand to a neighbour in need. It’s heartbreaking to see the scourge of criminal activity worsen in these communities over the past several years, and we need to take action. This is an issue that affects many in my own community, and it is one that I take very seriously. As we promised, our government is taking immediate steps to make sure everyone feels safe and secure in their homes and in their communities.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks

Integrating provincial peace officers

In rural areas, police can be stretched across large distances, which can lead to longer response times. To help reduce response times, the government will create the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence Force – the RAPID Force – by expanding the roles and authorities of 400 peace officers in the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Branch and the traffic arm of the Alberta Sheriffs. The changes will allow these officers to respond to a wider range of calls and to assist the RCMP and other police services in some emergencies.

Training and related planning is underway, to have the first of these officers available to assist rural Albertans by fall 2020.

Strengthening property rights

To defend the rights of law-abiding property owners, the government will introduce changes to the Occupiers’ Liability Act.  These changes would eliminate the liability of law-abiding property owners who are protecting their property against trespasses who are, or who are believed to be, in the commission of a criminal act. This provision will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.

To strengthen trespass laws and further defend property rights, planned legislation includes a proposed five-fold increase to the maximum fines for trespassing offences, with fines of up to $10,000 for a first violation and $25,000 for subsequent offences, as well as possible prison time of up to six months. Corporations that help or direct trespassers would face fines up to $200,000. In addition to these increases, a proposed change would increase the maximum amount a court can order for loss of or damage to property from $25,000 to $100,000.

The planned legislation would amend the Petty Trespass Act to add explicit references to better capture land used for crops, animal-rearing and bee-keeping.

A proposed biosecurity regulation under the Animal Health Act would create offences and penalties for people who enter agricultural operations without authorization or encourage others to do so. Such incidents can introduce disease and threaten the welfare of animals.

Cracking down on metal theft

Government has proclaimed the Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act to deter metal theft by making it more difficult for criminals to monetize stolen material by selling it for scrap.

Metal theft is a significant public safety risk. Thieves terrify property owners by trespassing and stealing materials such as copper wire and industrial batteries and frequently damage and interfere with critical systems like electrical lines, telecommunications cables and transportation infrastructure.

Criminals often steal metal from property owners and critical infrastructure in isolated areas to avoid detection. This has also made rural Albertans a target of trespassers and thieves looking for metal.

The Scrap Metal Dealers and Recyclers Identification Act was passed in 2012, but never proclaimed. An Order in Council signed Nov. 5 puts the legislation into effect immediately.

Regulations outlining requirements on dealers and recyclers to obtain proof of identification from sellers, record and retain details of transactions and share information with law enforcement will be in place by spring 2020. There is also an immediate requirement for scrap metal dealers and recyclers to report any suspected stolen property in their possession to authorities.

A new voice for victims

Community impact statements will recognize the far-reaching effects of a crime and how an entire community can suffer harm or loss.

A new program will enable communities to take part in the sentencing of offenders by letting them submit a statement describing how the crime has affected the community as a whole – including the emotional, physical and economic impact, or fears they may have for their own security.

A community impact statement could be written on behalf of any group of people, such as those in a geographic area, diverse segments of the population, and groups affected by the crime.

Community impact statement forms will be available online in early January.

There will also be additional support for victims, via a new Restitution Recoveries Program. The program will help victims collect outstanding payments on restitution orders by giving government the authority to use enforcement measures against offenders, such as garnishing wages or seizing and selling property, as needed.

This program will reduce red tape for victims who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system and attempt to collect court-ordered restitution at their own risk, effort and expense.

Alberta

‘Opposite of busy:’ Business down at pawnshops, payday lenders during pandemic

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CALGARY — John Sanford has been a pawnbroker for 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it.

Pawnshops and payday loan lenders have long been harbingers of hard economic times due to health and financial crises.

But Sanford says that hasn’t been the case in the topsy-turvy world of 2020 where the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a recession.

“I rushed to the bank before this happened and I got all kinds of cash ready. I thought it was going to be a bonanza. But nope. Absolutely not,” Sanford, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Pawn in Calgary, says as he surveys the dwindling number of items on his shelves.

“It was amazing how much stuff we got after 2015 when the oil went in the tank. We had lots of stuff. And now we have nothing.”

Pawnshops lend people money and typically give them 30 days to come back, repay the loan and retrieve their items. Sanford says about eight out of every 10 customers usually come back.

Sanford on average sees 15 to 30 pawns daily, but on a day last week, he’d only had one by mid-afternoon.

“From the people we’ve talked to and who have come in, the economy’s awash with free money. There’s some people bragging how much they’re getting on CERB,” he says.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit from the federal government provides people out of work due to the pandemic $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

On the bright side, Sanford days, items that have been sitting in storage for years have been sold. Gold rings, chains, Rolex watches, TVs, video game consoles and stereos flew off the shelves early in the health crisis. Guitars have also been popular.

But with supplies disappearing and nobody pawning items, Sanford predicts a reckoning is coming soon.

“As far as pawns go, this is going to be the worst month since 1982 for lending out money. Thirty days from now we won’t even make enough money to pay our rent.”

The co-owner of Halifax Buy and Sell says business has also been slow.

“It’s really strange,” says Robert Blotnicky. “Literally everybody coming through the store is looking to spend money from their CERB cheques and trying to buy things to secure their needs.”

People also rushed in to pay to get their pawned items back, he says. “At this point, our pawn shelves are very bare.”

The payday loan industry is also struggling, says Alan Evetts, a director of the Canadian Consumer Finance Association and an owner of MyCanadaPayday.com in Vancouver.

In the first six weeks of the pandemic, numbers across the industry were consistently down about 84 per cent from before the crisis, he says.

“Things changed radically. The demand has been completely decimated by COVID,” he says.

“I think there are a few factors driving it. Spending is down to a huge degree while people are at home. And life is cheaper when you don’t leave your house.”

Evetts also blames high unemployment for the dropoff, since loans are dependent on customers having an upcoming payday to repay them.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020

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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Stopping Crime Debt in its tracks….



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Alberta

Increase of COVID-19 cases in Edmonton linked to 2 family gatherings

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s medical officer of health says there is an increase of active COVID-19 cases in the Edmonton area linked to two private family gatherings.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the individuals at the gatherings got tested as soon as they felt symptoms, which she adds helped health officials trace and limit further spread of the virus.

She announced 34 new cases in the province and no new deaths.

There are currently 400 active cases in Alberta, with 44 in the Edmonton zone and 309 in the Calgary region.

Hinshaw says there are 53 people in hospital with the virus, and six of those are in intensive care.

Since the pandemic started, Alberta has seen a total of 7,044 COVID-19 cases, 143 deaths and 6,501 people have recovered.

“Outbreaks … linked to social gatherings are expected now that our gathering restrictions have been relaxed,” Hinshaw said Monday during her COVID-19 briefing.

“I must stress that we have the ability to prevent such cases by continuing to follow public health measures when gathering.”

She said people must still keep two metres apart and suggested they not share food or drinks with those outside their households.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020

The Canadian Press

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june, 2020

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