Morinville is working to make sure residents feel safe and secure.
In mid-June, the Town of Morinville surveyed residents with the goal of developing a community safety and well-being plan. The survey asked residents about their day-to-day lives, health, education, employment, safety, leisure and recreation experiences, as well as what they think about living, working, and playing in Morinville.
In total, 157 residents completed the survey or approximately 1.6 per cent of the population aged 15 and over. In addition to the study, the town held discussions with various groups, including women, youth, seniors, Indigenous groups and community services providers and gathered other data, such as crime maps.
The survey results were released at the end of November and found that many residents feel the community is friendly, and everyone seems to know each other. There is a high level of volunteerism among residents, and people enjoy the size of Morinville and its small-town feel. Despite its small size, respondents feel the town offers various services, amenities, events and is conveniently located close to larger cities such as St. Albert and Edmonton.
Respondents also praised various departments, including the town's response to winter weather and emergency services. People also indicated they appreciate the accessibility of the mayor and town council.
In addition to the positives, residents highlighted some areas of concern related to community safety and well-being:
Community and Social Services
Community and social services were an area of focus for Morinville residents; some suggested a need for more support in town. Residents said that people have to travel into Edmonton to seek support in many cases. Some also noted that accessibility and affordability could be potential barriers for those seeking support, along with not being familiar with what is available locally.
Respondents also indicated they would like to see more support for youth and seniors and more health services and extended health care facilities.
Based on the feedback, there are recommendations for more funding for community services, more services to address basic needs such as food, housing, and employment, reducing reliance on the police for non-criminal matters by providing alternative responses, and establishing a central database of what is available in the Town of Morinville.
Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence
Domestic violence and intimate partner violence were also highlighted as a priority. Among survey respondents, 72.3 per cent indicated they were not concerned about experiencing domestic violence, and 95.4 per cent said they had not been the victim of domestic violence in the past 12 months. However, 23.1 per cent said they knew someone who had experienced domestic violence in the past year. In speaking with community members, several pointed out that domestic violence and intimate partner violence rates had increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions.
Suggestions for improving include addressing the root cause and risk factors of domestic violence through programs focusing on healthy relationships and challenging social norms. Other suggestions included increasing efforts to identify and address elder abuse and strengthening the connection between the community and services in other areas.
Housing precarity and people experiencing houselessness
Housing precarity and people experiencing houselessness were also highlighted in the report. Between April and December 2020, Morinville Family and Community Support Services conducted 55 housing-related referrals. A 2019 survey indicated that a lack of shelters was a challenge in the Town of Morinville and that there is a need for increased collaboration among community partners to address the factors that contribute to houselessness and housing precarity.
Recommendations included increasing services for those experiencing houselessness, including shelters, fewer enforcement-based responses and a greater focus on risk factors and root causes, as well as increasing affordable and subsidized housing and more support for youth experiencing houselessness.
Inclusivity and Focused Populations
Some residents recommended a greater focus on addressing the needs and experiences of various equity-deserving groups in the Town of Morinville. Some respondents suggested that there should be more supports tailored to the needs of these groups, such as those focused on youth and seniors, PTSD support for military families, and those that are more accepting of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. They also suggested that more understanding of these groups and their experiences is needed across law enforcement, emergency response, public service agencies, and the general population.
Recommendations included increasing education for law enforcement, emergency response, and public services workers when responding to focused populations, increasing support tailored to diverse groups, developing more programs for youths and seniors and working to develop and strengthen relationships between focused populations and the Town of Morinville.
Among respondents, 42 per cent feel crime in the community has increased in the last three years, while 39 per cent indicated they feel Morinville has about the same crime rate as the rest of the province. Residents shared concern with high rates of vandalism, theft from vehicles and homes, as well as automobile theft. Some were concerned with crimes related to drug use and the need to address factors contributing to criminal activity.
Crime rates in Morinville have generally remained the same or decreased from 2017 to 2021. The most common crimes against people and property are assaults, uttering threats, and theft under $5000. From 2020 to 2021, there was a 34 per cent increase in reports of a suspicious vehicle/person/property; however, overall, the numbers suggest that fear of crime is higher than the actual risk of victimization among residents.