Canada: 'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help - PressFrom - Canada

Canada'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help

17:06  25 june  2019
17:06  25 june  2019 Source:

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War crimes and crimes against humanity are among the gravest crimes in international law. At the heart of the concept of war crimes is the idea that individuals can be held criminally responsible for the actions of a country or its soldiers.

'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help© David Bajer/CBC Conklin business owners say an inadequate response to property crime is forcing them to take the law into their own hands.

Terry Mills' truck sped into the yard at 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2018, to confront thieves who had smashed their vehicles through the chained gate. They were there to steal gas again.

Mills nudged one of the cars with his hood then ducked when he noticed the rifle poking through a window aimed at his head.

The robbers squealed off but Mills and a security guard were soon speeding after a black car on the snowy highway.

"That's when he started popping shots," Mills recalled. "We're on the phone with the RCMP from Lac La Biche. And I told them, they're heading their way. They should intercept him. And then I said the guy was shooting at us. The officer said 'If you shoot at him, I'm going to charge you with manslaughter. I said I'm not shooting at him. He's shooting at us."

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There are allegations that war crimes were committed by the Sri Lankan military and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) during the Sri Lankan Civil War

It could easily be a scene out of a movie but the incident unfolded in the compound of Renegade Gas & Oilfield Services Ltd in Conklin — a hamlet of about 200 in Alberta's oilpatch.

It's one of many unsolved incidents piling up as Conklin, like many rural communities across the prairies, grapples with drug-fuelled property crime.

'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help© David Bajer/CBC Doug Mills has reported 19 crimes to RCMP since January 2016, all of which remain unsolved.

Many of those crimes remain unsolved. In 2017, 24 per cent of property crimes in the hamlet were solved by police, compared to just eight per cent so far in 2019.

With the nearest RCMP detachment 140 kilometres away, some Conklin business owners and operators say they're often left to fend for themselves. They have confronted criminals and invested in security guards, dogs, cameras and spike belts.

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War crime : War crime , in international law, a serious violation of the laws and customs of war. The term war crime has been difficult to define with precision, and The charter listed three categories of crime : (1) crimes against peace, which involved the preparation and initiation of a war of aggression

Other war crimes cases have been remitted to national courts in the region. The outgoing chief prosecutor of the ICTY, Serge Brammertz, conceded last “As we have seen … the crimes have left wounds that still have not healed. Convicted war criminals continue to be seen by many as heroes

Doug Mills, Terry's brother and the owner of Renegade, predicts it will end in tragedy.

"We're going to get somebody that is innocent in a lot of trouble. Someone is going to try to defend themselves. Someone's going to call 911 and it will be delayed and someone's going to take the law into their own hands," said Mills, who has been operating in Conklin for nearly two decades. "We're in a war against crime. And we have been for a long time up here. We shouldn't have to put our own people at risk. I mean we need help down here."

Several business owners and operators who spoke to CBC News declined to be interviewed on the record for safety reasons.

Sporting a company ballcap, glasses and a handlebar moustache, Doug Mills recently steered his four-by-four along a bumpy dirt road, taking CBC on a tour. He pointed out location after location targeted by thieves: an empty lot where his residence was burned down, a burglary at a staff residence and the repeated theft of vehicles, guns and equipment from yards and work camps.

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The formulation of the crime may be as follows: “Whoever, while participating in a conspiracy to destroy a national, racial or religious group, undertakes an Open Civil war began in October 1990 when the Tutsis Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) launched an invasion of Northern Rwanda from southern Uganda.

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'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help The closest RCMP detachments in Fort McMurray and Lac a Biche are at least 140 kilometres away.

Mills said it takes hours for RCMP officers to respond, if at all, often bringing business to a standstill. To speed up the process, the brothers bag the evidence themselves.

Between business interruptions, replacing equipment and rising insurance costs, crime has been costly.

An email from the RCMP lists Mills' criminal cases dating back to 2016 — 19 separate incidents including seven stolen trucks and nine break and enters —  all unsolved.

"Do you know how hard it is to get broken into month after month after year after year after year and never have nobody come to you and explain to you a goddamn thing about that file number?" asked Mills, who says his complaints have long been ignored.

Mills said the problem is two-fold. The Wood Buffalo RCMP detachment responsible for Conklin is based 140 kilometres away, often staffed by officers without enough experience.

"These kids shouldn't be up here in the front lines," he said, emphasizing that it isn't the officers' fault. "They need senior guys up here, guys who know what they're doing."

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'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help© David Bajer/CBC Les Tremblay says it's no longer safe to take his 14-year-old son fishing.

In the driveway of his wood bungalow, Mills recalled peering out his window eight years ago to see two quads leave his driveway. He called police as he chased after them. Mills ran one quad off the road. The driver scurried off. He found the other quad tipped upside down in flames. The next evening Mills received a phone call from an anonymous number.

"They had told me they're going to burn my house down with me in it," Doug Mills recalled. "[The police] said they couldn't do nothing about it. So I sat up in my garage for the next two weeks from 10:00 at night until 5:00 in the morning with a shotgun, waiting for someone to come, to burn me out. What else am I supposed to do?"

It's a question on the minds of many Canadians since the high profile case of Colten Boushie. In February 2018, a Saskatchewan jury found Gerald Stanley not guilty of killing Boushie who had driven onto his farm with friends from Red Pheasant Cree Nation.

Rural crime crisis

'We're in a war against crime': Northern Alberta hamlet pleas for help

The release of the parliamentary public safety committee's report on rural crime last month was supposed to provide some of those answers. Without any formal recommendations, it drew the ire of Alberta Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs who vowed to do better.

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During his campaign, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney pledged $30 million to crack down on rural and urban crime.

For lifelong Conklin resident Les Tremblay, those promises can't come soon enough. Earlier this month, RCMP confirmed the death of his uncle. The remains of William Tremblay were discovered in a smouldering trailer two months earlier. No charges have been laid.

Les Tremblay said a tougher response is needed from the justice system where repeat offenders are too easily released.

"I'm scared to go out in the evening," said Tremblay." You know I used to take my son fishing and stuff. Now I can't even do that ... I've got a 14-year-old son. He loves fishing. Now he's scared to go to the lake."

According to RCMP, between January and mid-June of this year, officers conducted 736 patrols. Junior members are guided by experienced supervisors. Over the past year and a half, nearly half of the suspects arrested for crimes in Conklin don't live in the community.

"This trend is observed throughout rural communities across Alberta," RCMP said in an email. "The Alberta RCMP has developed and implemented a crime reduction strategy to address this problem, amongst many others."

Management is talking to groups in Conklin to develop strategies to best combat crime, the email added.

One of those discussions will be with Mills, who is looking forward to his meeting with RCMP Tuesday — a meeting scheduled following inquiries from CBC.

"I'm tired of looking over my shoulder," he said. "I mean when is enough enough."

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