A special provincial crime unit that tackles the most serious offences turned up 32 guns and laid 373 charges in the Red Deer area last year — tops among seven regions.
Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) released its 2019 statistics this week. It said 2019 was one of its most successful crime fighting years since being set up by the provincial government in 2006.
Across the province, 1,402 criminal charges were laid against 241 suspects, 92 firearms were seized and $4 million in cash was seized. And nearly $13 million worth of cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine was taken off the streets.
The agency pulls together RCMP, nearly a dozen municipal police forces, sheriffs and other enforcement agencies in a 300-person unit, including about 15 in the Red Deer region.
In Red Deer, 32 suspects were arrested last year and $107,000 in drugs seized.
Medicine Hat saw the most arrests, with 71 suspects facing charges. That city had the second-most number of charges laid with 312.
Among the major busts singled out was a September operation in the Red Deer area that turned up 12 rifles, including one semi-automatic assault gun, two handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a prohibited magazine and more than 9,000 rounds of ammunition.
While the size of the deadly arsenal was unusual, the fact guns were found was not, Insp. Sean Boser, who is in charge of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams’ regional efforts, made clear at a news conference at the time.
“We’re anticipating firearms to be there all the time now.”
Paul Goranson, the City of Red Deer’s director of protective services, said firearms and the danger they pose to police officers is always a concern.
The lethal danger of firearms in the wrong hands was tragically demonstrated in the city shortly before Christmas. A 69-year-old man was shot and killed in the parking lot of the south Walmart. The shooter allegedly fired at two other people, and missed, before fleeing in a vehicle driven by another suspect.
Both suspects are facing charges, including second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder by the alleged shooter who was armed with a sawed-off semi-automatic rifle.
Red Deer is beefing up its RCMP this year. Two new officers are already on the job and another starts in February.
ALERT is also getting bolstered. The provincial government pledged $50 million over four years for the organization.
Another crime highlight — or lowlight — for Red Deer was the culmination of a two-year investigation by ALERT into suspected drug trafficking by members of the Syndicate outlaw motorcycle club.
Syndicate is a support club of the Hells Angels. Support clubs are typically utilized to carry out lower-level work for the Hells Angels, such as drug trafficking and expanding territory to secondary markets, said ALERT.
Project Rocker was a two-year investigation by ALERT Red Deer’s organized crime team into the suspected drug trafficking activities of the Syndicate outlaw motorcycle club.
Project Rocker concluded on April 30, 2019, after three suspects were arrested. About $350,000 worth of drugs, firearms, motorcycles and cash were seized that led to charges against two men and a woman.