Some Inglewood residents voiced frustration at a public meeting on Wednesday night about the police’s inability to shut down a suspected drug house near a recent murder scene in their neighbourhood.
If more evidence is needed, one young man said, “What if I walked up to the front door (of the house) and bought some drugs, with an officer watching?”
The comment drew laughs from the crowd of about 100 residents and city representatives — as well as a diverting explanation from Red Deer RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson.
He replied that police officers are often just as frustrated as residents about having to operate within narrow legal parameters — but they can’t gather evidence in the way suggested.
“I’d have to make you an agent first… and then make plans to move your family to another part of the country.” Simpson assured those attending a public meeting at the Red Deer Lodge that a residence in the area is of interest to police, and “we are using every tool in the tool box” to reduce crime.
But he stressed that police officers can only do their jobs effectively if people report all suspicious activities in their neighbourhoods.
Resident Allen MacGillivray said he was disturbed to discover he was the only person to call 911, despite other people being closer to the scene of an early morning April 5 shooting that claimed the life of 29-year-old Brandon Neil Prevey.
The victim was known to have gang ties, but Simpson told the crowd that Prevey could have been shot anywhere in the city. Police believe the unknown killer found a chance to target Prevey while the victim was sitting in a parked vehicle in Inglewood.
Turning a blind eye to crime, whether bystanders are too scared or indifferent, will eventually endanger children and other innocents, said MacGillivray. “We have to look at ourselves… a lot of it is up to us.”
This message was repeated by a representative from Neighbourhood Watch, who urged Inglewood residents to sign up for the program that keeps track of who lives in neighbourhoods. Residents also heard about the importance of clearing sightlines and improving lighting to prevent crime.
Inglewood residents complained of an alarming number of property crimes — Tiffany Lichti said her truck was stolen from in front of her house last summer and welding equipment taken from her garage. As as result, she’s afraid when her husband is away. The couple say this is one reason they are planning to move to an acreage.
Simpson said theft and property crimes are usually strongly linked to illegal drug activity within an area — but he stressed that none of this is unique to Inglewood.
“Keeping track of license plates goes a long way,” said Simpson, who cautioned, “you don’t have to be aggressive.” Simply saying “hi” ensures strangers know they are being noticed. “It’s a real friendly Canadian act, and it work really well because it creates accountability.”
Several residents praised police efforts, including former city policing commission chair Phil Hyde, who also urged people talk to local politicians about changing the law to allow the RCMP more options in solving crime.
Simpson and city councillor Gail Parks were both pleased with the turnout, which included several residents from different neighbourhoods.
Crime and drugs are problems everywhere, said Parks, who added people need to take back their streets. “It’s light and voices that drive (criminals) away.”