Pubdate: Tue, 14 Apr 2009
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Elise Stolte
Bookmark: (CN Police)


Angry Residents Tired Of Watching Their Neighbourhoods Ruined

Elise Stolte Journal Staff Writer

Alberta sheriffs are hiring eight new investigators to target drug 
houses, allowing police to expand operations in rural and smaller 
urban centres.

That's great news to Leah Brown, a Blackfalds resident who got so fed 
up with drug dealing and guns she posted a spray-painted sign on a 
nearby front lawn: "Help us remove this drug house from (the) 
neighbourhood." The $1.2-million in extra funding was approved as 
part of last week's provincial budget, and the department is already 
in the hiring process, said spokeswoman Eilish Lemieux.

Fourteen investigators currently work out of the Edmonton and Calgary 
offices, using civil law, surveillance and informal negotiation with 
landlords or homeowners to shut down problem properties. They have 
been mostly focused on the cities.

Brown said she's been calling RCMP almost five times a week for the 
past couple of months about a problem house nearby that has blankets 
over the windows, garbage in the backyard, and people dropping by at 
all hours. They stay only five minutes -- just long enough to get the 
dogs barking -- then drive away.

She suspects drugs.

"I'm talking anywhere from 14 vehicles a day. People coming and going 
at all hours of the night." About a week ago, at suppertime, someone 
drove up in front of the house and opened fire. The bullets shattered 
windows in an empty car but no one was injured.

"I'm frustrated," she said.

The shooting happened on a Thursday but visitors kept coming by all weekend.

She and other neighbours had the signs up by last Monday, and 
although bylaw officials forced them to take them down soon 
afterward, the street has been quieter since, she said. "Since last 
Monday, we've been able to go outside and feel comfortable." Brown 
found out about the sheriffs' unit late last week and investigators 
have made several trips to the street since, she said.

"I don't think they're going to be able to help us," she said, simply 
because visitors have stopped dropping by the house, for now. "But 
I'm fully confident they'll be able to help someone else." Provincial 
sheriffs started targeting drug houses when the Safer Communities and 
Neighbourhoods Act came into force Oct. 1.

Between then and March 31, investigators received 269 complaints and 
concluded 205 files, usually by working out the problem with 
landlords or owners.

Only one file, in Edmonton, advanced to the courts. A judge granted a 
community safety order, which will force the homeowner to move within 
several months, said Lemieux.

"It's been excellent, the number of complaints we've been able to 
resolve," said the program's director Neil LeMay. "Of course, new 
(files) come in every day." Sometimes the offenders will move down 
the street and start the problems all over again, but at least 
investigators are familiar with them, LeMay said.

Even in safe communities problems can escalate quickly, said 
Blackfalds mayor Melodie Stol, who called the hiring of new sheriffs 
excellent news.

"There's people out there who think they can take advantage of a 
smaller centre," she said. "People in the bad element can't just go 
hide in a small town and get away with it."
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