Red Deer has as many as nine organized crime groups, according to RCMP.
Some battle each other locally. Some work together, like the members of two chapters of nationally identified criminal groups who police arrested about a week ago.
A massive criminal investigation over many months into organized crime and drug distribution in the city has resulted in 16 people facing 24 drug-related charges.
“We know that there is no specific gang that claims Red Deer as their turf. That’s why we see more than one organized crime group in the community,” Red Deer City RCMP Supt. Warren Dosko said at a press conference on Tuesday to discuss the investigation.
“They see it as an opportunity to expand their business and move into our community.”
He said the two crime groups affected by the investigation, which police will not name, were new to Red Deer. He alleged that they were sent here by their organizations.
“Organized crime in Red Deer has been growing. We know that Red Deer’s location plays a key role, being centrally located between Calgary and Edmonton.”
Charging 16 people has a “significant impact” on organized crime in the city and the ability of those charged to do business if they’re in custody or face bail conditions.
He alleged organized crime is responsible for serious offences in Red Deer like the July 4 shooting between two groups in the downtown that resulted in a 29-year-old man being shot in the torso, and recently a retaliation kidnapping and beating of a 44-year-old male after a similar kidnapping of a 16-year-old male.
“They are not connected to (the latest investigation), but they are absolutely organized crime.”
However, people in Red Deer are safe, he said.
“It’s not like crime is out of control in our community. We’ve had these isolated instances where organized crime was involved,” Dosko said.
Those facing charges in the drug investigation include 10 people from Central Alberta and others from Calgary, Winnipeg, and Abbotsford, B.C.
Charges were mostly for drug trafficking.
Warrants are still outstanding for four of the people charged. Court appearances in Red Deer provincial court for the others have already begun.
The investigation was conducted by the Red Deer City RCMP Street Team, Organized Crime Section, Crime Reduction Unit, Edmonton ALERT’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit. Canada Border Services and Revenue Canada are assisting with the investigation.
Red Deer City RCMP Sgt. Geoff Greenwood said multiple ounces of cocaine and heroin were seized during the investigation.
“Heroin is really not that prevalent here. It’s more the designer drugs like MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine), cocaine, crack,” said Greenwood, who was part of the investigation.
He alleged those charged were not low-end street dealers, but rather “middle management” in the crime organizations. They were arrested without incident and were not carrying firearms.
“They won’t walk around carrying a firearm. They’ll only go get a firearm if they need it.”