DRUG HOUSE PROGRAM OFF TO GOOD START
In the never-ending war against drugs in society, it can be hard to measure successes, but Grande Prairie RCMP Const. Tony Walker knew he was getting somewhere the day he knocked on the door of a suspected drug house.
The resident opened the door, took one look at Walker's broad frame and simply said 'Yeah, I've heard of you.'
"It was a good feeling," Walker said with a smile. "He knew what I was doing."
It has been a month since Grande Prairie RCMP adopted the Report a Drug House program pioneered by the Edmonton Police Service and Walker was put in charge of targeting local problem houses.
In that time, he has been the force's point man on the issue and word has clearly spread among the city's drug and criminal network. In a matter of weeks, RCMP have closed down six drug houses in the city and Walker was expecting to close two more late last week. The sudden success can be attributed to the drug house program, which sees RCMP target suspected homes with activities that could border on harassment.
When a suspected drug house is reported to Walker, he makes an initial assessment of the house and, if the suspicions are confirmed, he begins his campaign of intimidation.
Walker will park his cruiser in front of the house and do his paperwork in the vehicle, use bylaw officers to fine the residents for not cutting the grass or leaving trash out, ask public health officials to try and have houses condemned -- he'll even go so far as to find out if the residents have a licence for any dogs and fine them if they don't.
The idea isn't to make arrests, but harass the suspected criminals so much they pack up and move. If they move to another neighbourhood and set up shop there, it's often a smaller operation.
The activities could potentially open Walker to harassment complaints against the Mounties, but with another big smile the constable says he hasn't had a single complaint and neighbours in the area have heaped praise on him and the RCMP.
"The response from the public is overwhelming," said Walker. "They're happy there's a member whose sole job is this."
Since the program began, Walker has identified 32 suspected drug houses in Grande Prairie. None are of the heavily-fortified kind, and all are considered more low-level. Walker said he maintains a rolling list of three houses he targets.
When one is closed, he moves to the next and sometimes it's the same people.
The zero-tolerance approach is designed to reclaim neighbourhoods. Walker knows drugs will never be fully driven from the community, but the idea is to minimize their presence.
"I've done a lot ( so far ) but I still have a way to go. It's going to be an ongoing problem."
To report a suspected drug house in any neighbourhood, call the program's hotline. [/FONT]