January 16th, 2021

‘Oasis of crime’ closed

By Lethbridge Herald on September 9, 2020.

Officials and contractors work to close up an alleged drug house on Lethbridge's northside Wednesday through the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods unit of the Alberta Sheriffs office. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit of the Alberta Sheriffs office shut down another alleged drug house on Lethbridge’s northside on Wednesday.
While there are several suspected drug houses in Lethbridge, this one on the 300 block of 20 Street North may be a bigger win for the community than most, confirmed Lethbridge Police Service Downtown Crime Unit Cst. Ryan Darroch.
The LPS has conducted three separate search warrants at the residence, said Darroch — two for drugs, and one for stolen goods — which have led to a long list of criminal charges for those associated with the property, including drug trafficking. The house has also been operating as an alleged illegal bike chop shop, he confirmed
“It has been non-stop,” Darroch said. “At any time of the day, bikes coming and going from this property. We have had many community members involved in coming here and actually recovering bikes that were stolen from their own property, which has led to a long list of complaints to us.”
“This place has been an oasis of crime for the past two years,” he added, “and it is nice to finally get to this stage. And we are not just going to walk away from the neighbourhood. This neighbourhood has really bound together and stood up to these people, and said ‘not here, not now.’ It has been very cool to see, and we will continue to support them with whatever needs they have.”
Insp. Mike Letourneau of the Alberta Sheriffs credited to hard work of the Lethbridge Police Service and the courage of community members leading up to Wednesday’s court-ordered 90-day closure of the house via a “Community Safety Order.” The CSO will also remain in effect on the property for the next year even after the 90-day forced closure expires.
“On Oct. 19, 2019 we got a call basically from complainants in the community they were witnessing activity resembling drug activity occurring at the property,” explained Letourneau. “After a fairly lengthy investigation, SCAN was able to recognize very soon after our investigation started this property is a safe haven for drug users and criminals essentially. These criminals were going around the community and pretty much taking anything that wasn’t nailed down. The Lethbridge Police Service worked extensively on this property alongside SCAN to get to the result we are at today.”
The reason the property got to this state of lawlessness in the first place, said Letourneau, is an “extremely” absent landowner who has a relationship with one of the tenants.
Letourneau confirmed even after the owner had been informed of the impending action by the Alberta Sheriffs, they had not communicated directly in any way with police — not even when the matter came before the courts.
According to sources at the scene who did not wish to be publicly identified, this same landowner owns several problematic “slum” properties in the area, including another house directly beside the alleged drug house where witnesses saw those who were being evicted moving their personal belongings into the backyard of the other house just after the formal notice was enacted at noon on Wednesday.
Letourneau says it highlights the problems police have in dealing with drug houses.
“The main tenant was storing a bunch of stuff behind this (second) house is what we understand,” he explained. “Whether or not he gains access to it, we’re not sure. It’s one house at a time. If the activity continues, and we simply just moved it next door, we will be right all over this house. If it is the same property owner, which we have yet to confirm, but if it is, the same consequence is in place. We will go after a Community Safety Order on this property working in conjunction with the Lethbridge Police Service and community members, and we will go for another 90-day closure on that property.”
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