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Fort Smith more peaceful

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (Apr 29/02) - Today's Fort Smith is a more peaceful community than in the past.

So says Sgt. Marion Lamothe of the Fort Smith RCMP detachment.

Lamothe says there are not as many serious violent crimes in the community as 15 to 20 years ago.

The sergeant says that in the late 1980s, there were several homicides in the community. "The place was considerably more violent then."

In the last two years or so, while he has been stationed in the community, Lamothe says the most serious crimes were a robbery in which a taxi driver was injured and a hit and run incident. "That's pretty much the most serious we'd had."

As for spousal assault, he says it is hard to tell if it is any worse than 15 to 20 years ago, because it was treated differently in the past. Then, it was considered common assault, and some cases never went to court. Sometimes the people involved dealt with the incident, and sometimes the victim did not want a charge laid.

Now, there is zero tolerance by police, Lamothe explains. "In each and every case, when there are probable and reasonable grounds to believe a crime has been committed, it will go to court. It's that simple."

Therefore, the sergeant thinks the level of spousal assault is much the same. "That hasn't changed, I don't believe so."

Lamothe credits the decrease in other violent crimes to a number of factors, such as a greater emphasis on prevention and programs on problem-solving by social agencies.

The results of such efforts may not be evident in a year or two, he notes. "Fifteen years down the road, we're seeing a community with less violent crime."

Lamothe says it shows people's behaviour can be changed. "Nothing is ever hopeless, even if you change the behaviour of one individual."

While he has no statistics to illustrate the change in Fort Smith, he says, "It's considerably more peaceful."