BLACKFALDS — Gunfire in the street was the final straw.
Young homeowners from the west end of Westbrooke Road in Blackfalds have been trying for about seven years to resolve issues with a neighbour. They now fear their children are in danger from activities at the house.
Police were called to the street just after 5 p.m. to look at what appears to have been a street fight between two groups of people.
Shots were fired and least one shotgun round hit the house next door. No charges have been laid.
The shooting was particularly alarming because the fight started at a time of day when children are returning home for supper, said one father, a 31-year-old oilfield worker.
Like the other people on his street, the man asked that his name be withheld to protect his children’s safety.
“I’m not angry. I’m scared,” said the burly man. He had been driving through Edmonton on his way to Grande Prairie when his sister called to tell him about the fight.
He turned around and came straight home.
Now the man and his neighbours are ramping up their campaign to have the house shut down and its owner removed.
They had even tried to buy the house, the man said while he and others in the group watched over preschoolers playing in their front yards.
On Monday, the group erected two signs on the boulevard in front of the house. Some of the people who drove by in the afternoon gave thumbs up after reading: “Help us remove this guy from neighbourhood” and “No guns, no drugs, no crime. Get out,” on the two signs, hand-painted on large sheets of plywood.
But town officials had the group move the signs onto their own properties later in the day after receiving a complaint, said a 28-year-old mother who looks after the house and children while her husband works out of town for weeks at a time.
Along with the sign campaign, the group is starting a petition, asking that all occupants be removed from the house.
The 33-year-old man organizing the petition said he is seeking advice from Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins.
Staff Sgt. Gord Glasgow of the Red Deer Rural RCMP said he understands the group’s frustration with the situation, including their perception that police don’t do enough.
There is always a tension between effective law enforcement and due process, said Glasgow.
Police must work within the rules of the criminal justice system, so must find the balance between the two, which can be difficult at times, said Glasgow.
“My advice to people is not to be passive and to actively engage with the authorities at a variety of levels and allow those authorities to do what they can,” he said.
“These circumstances evolve over long periods of time and, to be candid, there aren’t simple solutions.”
The first step is to pick up the phone and report activities to the police, said Glasgow.
After that, there is a variety of mechanisms available to help people in situations such as what the Blackfalds group is experiencing, he said.
Those mechanisms include provisions of the Safer Communities And Neighbourhoods Act, which offers civil remedies for dealing with people whose activities pose a threat, said Glasgow.
Proclaimed late last year and administered by investigators from the Sheriffs Branch, SCAN targets buildings where criminal activity, particularly in drugs and prostitution, poses a threat to the safety and comfort of neighbours, he said.
“It certainly appears to be good, solid legislation that tries to strike the balance between property rights of a homeowner and property rights of the people who interact with that homeowner,” said Glasgow.
Among its provisions, SCAN offers options for removing people and fortifications from properties that have been subject to a Community Safety Order.
The Sheriffs Branch currently has two teams set up for SCAN complaints, one in Edmonton and the other in Calgary.
Information on SCAN is available online at www.scan.alberta.ca or by calling 1-866-960-7226.