Provincial investigators could shut down far more crack and gang houses if more people would report the crimes taking place in their neighbourhood, says a Red Deer police officer.
During its annual general meeting on Tuesday, members of the Red Deer Neighbourhood watch learned about a new program, administered by the Alberta Sheriffs, that can shut down homes or businesses that have become a base for crimes, including gang hangouts, drug supply depots and party houses.
Up and running since April, Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) has received complaints about five different properties in Red Deer and currently has two under investigation, said Barry Balerud, manager of the Calgary-based SCAN team. Balerud’s team covers the province from Red Deer south, while another team, based in Edmonton, covers regions north of Red Deer.
Cpl. Kathe DeHeer, media liaison officer for the Red Deer City RCMP, told the meeting of about 25 people that Balerud’s investigators would get a lot more action in Red Deer if more people would pick up the phone and report vandalism, vehicle break-ins and other crimes commonly associated with having a drug house in the neighbourhood.
Some people fear retaliation while others don’t believe their complaints make a difference, said DeHeer.
In fact, retaliation against people who report crimes in their neighbourhood is extremely rare, while leaving those crimes unreported allows the situation to get progressively worse, she said. “You have to stand up to crime in your community,” said DeHeer.
“Crime prevention is a partnership. It’s not just the police in your neighbourhood. It’s not just the SCAN folks in your neighbourhood. Everybody has to take a role and they have to quit fearing what is going to happen.
“The advantages of standing up far outweigh any small fear of retribution because, for the most part, retribution doesn’t happen.”
DeHeer advised that people having problems make their first call to police and follow that up with a call to SCAN.
Balerud said confidentiality is a key element in the SCAN program, which targets the properties where crimes take place rather than the perpetrators themselves.
A former member of the Calgary Police Service with years of experience in gangs and organized crime, he echoed Deheer’s comments, stating that SCAN investigators and local police work closely together.
“We need people to report stuff to us if we’re going to do something about it,” he said.
Balerud expects the SCAN program, already established in some other provinces, will build on its own successes.
While the goal is to shut down the places where illegal activities are taking place, SCAN has an added benefit for property owners who unwittingly become involved as landlords to drug dealers, hookers and gang members.
Because SCAN operates under civil law, which does not have as heavy a burden of proof as criminal law, people can be removed for 90 days from a house very quickly once an investigation has confirmed that it has become a centre for criminal activities, he said.
“If it continues after 90 days, we come back and we do it again,” he said.
People who have complaints about sites where criminal activities endanger their safety or limit their enjoyment of their own property are invited to visit www.scan.alberta.ca or call 1-866-960-7226 (SCAN).