A home in Red Deer’s The Pines neighbourhood, which became a magnet for drug users, has been fenced and locked for 90 days by Alberta sheriffs.
A Court of Queen’s Bench judge granted a community safety order on Sept. 9, giving sheriffs the authority to board up the house, change the locks and erect a fence around the property at 75 Patterson Cres.
Nobody is allowed back on the property until Dec. 17. In the meantime, authorities will go in and clean up needles and other drug debris.
The house is off limits for 90 days, but the community safety order is in effect for a year, during which time investigators will continue to monitor the home.
The sheriffs’ Safer Communities and Neighbours (SCAN) unit began investigating in September 2019, in response to complaints from the community about drug activity on the property.
During their investigation, sheriffs observed multiple drug transactions and an excessive number of people visiting the property on foot and by bicycle.
Criminal activity associated with the property has also been a concern for Red Deer RCMP, which responded to 51 calls related to the home between January 2019 and July 2020.
In July, the RCMP executed a search warrant on the property and seized a small amount of fentanyl. Investigators found used needles in and around the property and scattered near three backyard sheds that appeared to be used for injecting drugs.
Mike Letourneau, manager for SCAN south, said the property saw a steady stream of drug user traffic and was a “complete nightmare” for neighbours.
“It was pretty obvious. We were getting a large volume of traffic, including lots of bike traffic and foot traffic,” said Letourneau.
“It is best described as a place that was completely out of control where people tended to do intravenous drugs. They had sheds in the back that people were both sleeping in and using drugs in.
“They were using on the front street, on driveways, on sidewalks and in vehicles out front.”
Some neighbours reported seeing people passed out in their vehicles, with drug needles sticking out of their arms, he said.
Neighbours reported dozens — one estimated the number in the hundreds — of visits to the home by users of drugs such as morphine and fentanyl monthly.
There were also lots of property thefts in the area by addicts trying to fuel their drug habits.
The property was owned by a couple who had three adult sons living with them at one point. Both parents eventually passed away — the mother in January — leaving at least two of the sons still living there.
The son who has legal responsibility for the property appeared in court and admitted the situation at the home had gotten out of control, said Letourneau. He said he had no idea how many people came to the house each day to shoot up and said he could not control them.
“He figured this (safety order) was the best thing that could possibly happen.”
At least five neighbours had come forward with complaints, but there were, no doubt, many others affected.
“Part of the problem is people who don’t know who to call. And people are terrified to contact SCAN.
“A lot of the people coming in and out of this house had been very, very intimidating to people walking down the street,” he said.
“Intimidating, in the sense they were screaming at them, (saying) ‘What are you looking at?’ — these types of interactions.
“People in the neighbourhood would avoid walking in front of the house for that specific reason.”
To confidentially report a suspicious property, contact SCAN toll-free at 1-866-960-SCAN (7226), or go to www.alberta.ca.
If you report a suspicious property, your information is safe and confidential, says the agency.
A nearby neighbour said the house had become a problem in the past couple of years, when the older couple’s sons moved back home.
“The mom and dad were great people. Once the kids moved in, that was it,” she said.
The woman, who has lived in the area for 17 years, said a meth house was located just a few doors away several years ago. It was finally shut down and sold to new people three or four years ago.
She is hopeful, but not confident, the 90-day order will be the end of issues at 75 Patterson.
“They shut them down before and they were back,” she said, adding a notice was posted on the home a year or two ago, but it was not fenced and boarded as it has been this time.
This is the seventh house to be locked up under a community safety order in Red Deer since 2009. Most recently, a home was closed on Gunn Street last March.
Since its inception in 2008, Alberta’s SCAN unit has investigated more than 5,800 problem properties and issued more than 80 community safety orders. The majority of complaints are resolved by working with property owners to keep criminal activity out of the community.