A Police Service Model Review Update that was presented to council earlier this week indicated that although Airdrie has a much lower Crime Severity Index (CSI) in comparison to other municipalities, it also has the lowest number of officers per capita.

"Airdrie’s officers per 100,000 population is 85 – lower than comparator municipalities with RCMP police contracts, which average 161, and municipal police services at 165."

The report also underlined that while RCMP statistics showed a decrease in criminal activity, observations from the city's residents have indicated that they feel the community is less safe.

"The percentage of residents that consider Airdrie a safe place to live is declining. [It] dropped from 92 per cent in 2021 to 72 per cent in 2022... Increased to 76 per cent in 2023. Community survey results indicate there are several priorities above community safety but satisfaction with the service has dropped. This is consistent with stakeholder feedback that there are community service gaps residents would like filled and that growing population is putting pressure on existing capacity for services," the report surmised.

There was also mention that, 'data supports stakeholder observations that youth population is growing as well as anecdotal accounts that Airdrie’s schools are experiencing overcrowding and that the City is experiencing an increase in youth loitering and youth crime.'

While the original Police Delivery Model Study was completed in 2020, several developments occurred since then, including a grant by the province of $30,000 that was handed out to municipalities, 'desiring to research the feasibility of alternative policing options for their communities. As the policing landscape has experienced significant evolution since 2020, the administration applied for and received approval and funding to update the 2020 Police Delivery Model Study.'

Some key developments included The RCMP National Police Federation (NPF) completing their first contract negotiations that resulted in significant pay increases to the City of Airdrie, as well as the RCMP now in the process of a federal assessment of contract policing. There was also the province's study about the transition to a provincial police force.  

While the study incorporated the pay increase that The City of Airdrie negotiated several years ago, it also underlined that there continue to be shortages within local policing.

"Personnel vacancies were repeatedly mentioned as a challenge affecting policing within the City of Airdrie both in the initial study and during the update consultation," the report cited.

Between 2014-15 and 2022-23, Airdrie RCMP experienced an average vacancy rate of 12 per cent of authorized strength, with lows of 3 per cent in 2016-17 and a high of 17 per cent in 2018-19.

"These are primarily due to soft vacancies. Vacancies are not unique to the Airdrie RCMP. Recent reports of national RCMP vacancy rates show that in 6 of the 11 provinces and territories where the RCMP are the policing service provider, vacancy rates are in the double digits, with Alberta RCMP vacancy rate sitting at 15 per cent as of February 2023." 

The report also highlighted several avenues that The City of Airdrie might consider in terms of different policing models.

A presentation by MNP consultants go council broke down the types of policing models that might be available. (Graphic Credit to City of Airdrie / MNP)A presentation by MNP consultants to Airdrie city council broke down the types of policing models that might be available. (Graphic Credit to City of Airdrie / MNP)

While the presentation concluded that, 'there is no immediate need for Airdrie to change its policing model based upon consultation feedback, crime trends and statistics, or the RCMP’s ability to provide value for cost; there are concerns regarding the RCMP’s ability to sustain their contract policing in the long term.'

"Airdrie should consider the ongoing national contract policing review and the current MPSA contract end date of March 2032. The province has indicated a willingness to support municipalities if they were to undertake a transition – fewer resources may become available if multiple municipalities make a transition sooner."

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