By Peggy Revell on May 19, 2017.
A Medicine Hat house notorious for being the site of drug use and related crimes has been shut down. Again.
“Clearly the 90-day closure didn’t break the cycle … we’re here back again,” said Insp. Mike Letourneau with the Sheriff’s Safer Communities Neighbourhoods unit (SCAN) Thursday, as police knocked on the door at 390 Aberdeen Street to escort anyone present off the premises, and workers began erecting chainlink fences around the property and board up windows.
The house had been shut down last August under a Community Safety Order, and vacated for 90 days. But by February, police were receiving complaints it had reverted back to a place where drug activity was occurring. Twice within a 10-day span in March, police responded to the property due to overdoses. Following an investigation, police went to court requesting another CSO and 90-day closure.
The court granted only 14 days. A new condition of the order is that the homeowner is required to give a written lease of agreement to the director of Alberta Law Enforcement to authorize any tenants.
“Which is a huge step,” said Letourneau. “It hopefully will keep the homeowner from just allowing anybody back onto this property.”
This order won’t expire until a year from now.
Why not just shut it down?
“That wouldn’t be the objective,” said Letourneau. “The objective is for community safety here. We certainly don’t want to be in the position where we’re going into a civil forfeiture on a house. That would be the most extreme measure we could take.”
The obvious and best solution, Letourneau said, is for the homeowner to have his addiction treated, or for him to sell the property and get a new start.
The property’s owner —Billy Jussila —told the News earlier this month that he simply wants to be left alone. Jussila inherited the home from his mother but with the condition that if it were ever sold, the proceeds would have to be split between him and his estranged brother.
His brother Bob has told the News he wishes the house could just be sold but he has no legal way to force a sale.
Police say they’ve repeatedly reached out to Billy to offer him assistance but he has refused help.
“We tried problem solving from the outset of this,” said Sgt. Stacey Kesler with the Medicine Hat Police Service. “The last thing we wanted to do was to force someone out of their home. We tried a lot of different tactics.”
Having a property shut down for a second time is not common, said Letourneau.
“We’ve done over 53 closures in Alberta, I think this is maybe the third occurrence that we’re coming back for a second time,” he said. “Because people will either get treatment for their addictions, or they’ve sold the property. But clearly this homeowner wants to stay where he is.”
There’s never been a case where a property has been shut down for a third time, he said.
If the homeowner continues to breach the order, Letourneau said they would seek a third CSO.
“If we have to come back, and there’s drug activity at the property, we’ll be going for another 90-day closure and perhaps even more stringent conditions, so we can get a solution.”
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