The Municipal District (M.D.) of Bonnyville has updated its policies governing its vacant home checks program.

Under the program, peace officers check the homes of M.D. residents who are temporarily away. It is one of the M.D.’s initiatives to combat rural crime.

Matt Janz, the general manager of the M.D.’s Environmental and Protective Services department, told council on February 3 that the program had grown in popularity to the point that it was “somewhat overwhelming at times, and maybe not a proper use of resources.”

Janz said the intent is to “tighten up the rules and make it fair for everybody, but still offer the services to the public.” The program will continue, with changes. 

Peace officers will now check in on a vacant property once every 48 hours, as opposed to the previous daily checks. Residents may request the vacant home checks over a period of four weeks, up to twice a year. People who have to leave their homes more frequently for medical reasons can ask for an exemption to this limit.

The program is only available for a primary residence—cabins or vacation homes are not eligible. Likewise commercial properties, homes under construction, unoccupied homes or homes that are for sale are not eligible.

Janz said properties that are not eligible for the vacant home check program are still covered by peace officers’ regular daily patrols. Commercial or residential property owners are encouraged to report any suspicious activity near their properties, he said, and the department will attend to it.