Police officers made a small dint in the drug trafficking trade on Lethbridge streets during December but the battle is far from over.
"As soon as we remove them someone else is going to come in a fill that void. What is helping is the intelligence and information sharing between agencies," Staff Sgt. Wes Houston of ALERT's Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU)-Lethbridge, told media Thursday afternoon.
Three separate investigations by CFSEU in Lethbridge, with help from Lethbridge regional police and the RCMP, netted the arrest of six people and more than 30 charges being laid. Some of those arrested were known to police in other jurisdictions.
"The sharing of that information is crucial to be successful so when these people come to our community we're not waiting weeks or months to try and identify them. We know who they are coming out of the gate and we target them," Houston said.
Drug trafficking is responsible for about 80 per cent of the street violence and property crimes in the city, including street robberies and thefts from vehicles, homes and businesses.
In mid-December, two men were arrested at a store in the 100 block of Columbia Boulevard West. Both men had a large amount of cash. Further investigation by police led to the arrest of another man in the 2100 block of 5 Avenue North and execution of search warrants on Mic Mac Boulevard West and the 2300-block of 23 Avenue South. Officers found drug-trafficking paraphernalia such as packaging and scales and more than $8,000 in cash.
Four men face charges in connection with the investigation. Edgar Segasayo, a 24-year-old Lethbridge resident, is charged with trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime. Walid Nour, a 30-year-old Lethbridge resident, is charged with trafficking and breach of a conditional sentence order. Ibssa Ali, a 27-year-old Lethbridge resident, is charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of proceeds of crime. Farid Mohammed, a 31-year-old resident of Edmonton, is charged with proceeds of crime and breach of recognizance.
A few days later CFSEU-Lethbridge arrested two men in a vehicle in the 600 block of 10 Street North and seized almost 40 grams of cocaine and a small amount of cash. One man was released while another faces numerous charges in connection with the incident. Jibril Hosh Jibril, a 22-year-old from Toronto, has been charged with trafficking a controlled substance, possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a controlled substance and proceeds of crime and 15 breaches of recognizance, the latter charges relating to outstanding conditions on matters in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
On Dec. 21, the combined efforts of CFSEU-Lethbridge and Lethbridge regional police led to another arrest. Fuad Aden Hurre, a 30-year-old Edmontonian, was charged with drug trafficking, breach of recognizance and possession of proceeds of crime in relation to this incident.
Staff Sgt. Wes Houston said a couple of those arrested were known to Lethbridge police and the CFSEU.
"They had left our city for a brief period of time and came back and we used that opportunity to finish our investigation into those individuals," Houston said. "These groups of people are operating interprovincially."
Those arrested were dealing in crack cocaine with amounts ranging from a gram up to 3.5 grams.
"Unfortunately we see a lot of trafficking at the street level of crack cocaine. It's the number one drug of choice on the streets here in our community and for southern Alberta. The alarming fact is these individuals are known to the police. They come with a criminal background but a violent background as well," Houston said.
What typically happens is street traffickers move into a community and stick around until they get arrested. If they get released, usually with court-imposed conditions, they pack up and move their operations to another province so they aren't bound by those conditions.
Crack cocaine makes its way from the west coast to Calgary where it is dispersed to higher-level dealers who in turn supply dealers in Lethbridge. Dial-a-dope operations are very common. Traffickers are contacted by cell phone to make arrangements for an exchange, which generally takes place in a parking lot.
"It's important for us to deal with those individuals and let them know that their dial-a-dope operation, even though they're not from Lethbridge and they come here to do business, is not going to be tolerated," Houston said.
City residents should keep valuable out of sight in their vehicles and make sure to lock them. People should also lock their homes and not advertise when they are going away on a holiday through Twitter or Facebook.