June 12th, 2024

Police board up known drug house that plagued Riverside residents for years

By BRENDAN MILLER on May 23, 2024.

Police and members of the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods unit of the Alberta Sheriffs board up a Riverside home after years of drug- and violence-related complaints.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER


Several members of the Alberta Sheriffs’ Safer Communities and Neighbourhood unit and local police have shut down a property in Riverside that has received several drug activity and violence-related complaints dating back to August 2021.

In a period between 2021 and September 2023, the Medicine Hat Police Service has responded to the property 49 times for various types of calls for service.

“We’ve been dealing with this particular house for years,” says police chief Alan Murphy. “Once SCAN gets involved, it’s very helpful to us. They have some other resources that we don’t have and the partnership we have with them as outstanding.”

During that time period SCAN investigators also received four additional anonymous complaints about suspected drug-related activity occurring at the property located at 377 Fourth St. NW.

After acquiring necessary evidence the SCAN unit provided the homeowner a warning letter in April and started compliance conversations with the homeowner to reach an informal solution.

However, those conversations did not lead to a resolution and SCAN units applied for a Community Safety Order in the Court of King’s Bench, which was granted.

The Community Safety Order allows SCAN and police units to close a property for a 90-day period by boarding and fencing the home and changing all locks.

“What that order allows us to do is close the property,” says Insp. Mike Dirksen with the southern Alberta SCAN unit. “Our hope is that it breaks the cycle and habits that some of the occupants had.”

SCAN investigators and police hope the temporary closure will discourage drug activity and make the community feel safer after receiving ongoing complaints from residents in the community.

“Our hope is that after the 90 days, some behaviour has changed and people aren’t frequenting this house a expecting place to stay,” explains Dirksen. “Just stopping that cycle of violence and crime that we see from properties like this.”

“As we are standing here I see people looking out their windows because it’s a big deal for the community,” says Murphy. “We have people stopping and thanking us for being here, so the partnership with SCAN is huge and we appreciate their support.”

No arrests or charges were laid Wednesday against the homeowner, who will receive the property back after the 90-day period as concluded in August.

The property however will remain under police surveillance and be subject to additional Community Safety Orders if the homeowner remains noncompliant.

“It does remain under monitoring by the SCAN unit for the next two years,” says Dirksen. “If we have to undertake the investigative process again, it will be a much shorter process to end up in the Court of King’s Bench.”

SCAN is a unit under the Alberta Sheriffs and begins investigations based on anonymous citizen complaints. This property will be the seventh in Medicine Hat that has received a public safety order.

“Hopefully tonight the community feels safer and they see a positive effect from this process.” says Dirksen.

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