A notorious haven for drug dealers and other criminals that drew police dozens of times already this year has been shut down by a special Alberta Sheriffs unit.
The house at 5110 44th Ave. on a quiet tree-lined street of well-maintained properties was visited by RCMP 50 times last year and police have been there 13 times in 2022.
On Friday, fencing was put up around the house, which was boarded up and the locks changed. The owner has been barred from the property for 90 days under the terms of a community safety order issued by a Red Deer judge last month.
Since 2008, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) has investigated 7,000 properties across Alberta, successfully obtained more than 100 community safety orders and shut down 70 properties, including about half a dozen in Red Deer.
The trouble in Woodlea began in May 2020 when the home’s owner died and the house passed into the hands of her daughter and a boyfriend alleged to be a drug dealer, said Insp. Mike Letourneau, of the SCAN unit.
“This place quickly became a magnet for violence and drug activity. It was essentially a safe haven for people with very long criminal histories to come and deal drugs and there were different violent acts that complainants had observed,” said Letourneau outside the home on Friday afternoon.
By September 2020, neighbours had contacted authorities in hopes of ending the nightmare on their street.
“Complainants were finding drug paraphernalia in their yards, observing machete-wielding people in the backyards, observing BB guns being shot off in different directions,” said Letourneau. “Some neighbours reported waking up to gunshots.
“It was more than social disorder. It was terrible for this community.”
Some fearful and fed up neighbours moved away and others upgraded their home security systems.
From the beginning, SCAN investigators had little doubt what was going on at the home. However, it took time to gather the evidence necessary to make an airtight case for a community safety order, said Letourneau.
“At times, it was so busy complainants were seeing up to 20 people a day in and out of this property at all hours of the day and night. And at other times, there was no activity.
“That made it difficult from an evidence-gathering perspective, which made this whole investigation take a little bit longer than it should have.”
Letourneau urges any residents who suspect a home is being used by drug dealers or other criminals to call authorities and not give up.
“This SCAN legislation empowers the community to take their community back and that’s exactly what they did here today.”
Red Deer RCMP Const. Francois Nadeau said the property has long been a concern to police and they worked with SCAN to shut it down.
“We’ve noticed a number of different calls for types of service — anywhere from suspicious activity to drugs on the property to stolen vehicles recovered here.
“We do encourage the public to basically be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity they observe, whether it be strange vehicles or certain individuals coming out at all hours of the night or any needles or drug paraphernalia that they might encounter close to or around the property.
“Just keep an eye out for anything like that indicates the possibility of criminal activity.”
The Woodlea property is now being overseen by an executrix for the estate, who has co-operated fully with authorities. It is expected the house and property will be sold. The daughter does not have any rights to the home and will not benefit.
“That should be the end of this,” said Letourneau.
Anyone who has witnessed suspected criminal activity should call Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575 or go to reddeer.ca/rcmp.
To remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.p3tips.com or by using the “P3 Tips” app.