Calgary Herald

Province launches sheriff unit to combat crime in southern Alberta


A Lethbridge-based team of specialize­d sheriffs has been created to work with local police to investigat­e “problem properties” in southern Alberta, the province announced Wednesday.

An Alberta Sheriffs Safer Communitie­s and Neighbourh­oods (SCAN) unit of six investigat­ors will work with other enforcemen­t agencies to shut down properties throughout southern Alberta being used for illegal activities such as drug dealing, the Alberta government announced during a Wednesday news conference at the Lethbridge Police Service.

The new team serves an area roughly stretching to Vulcan to the north, Crowsnest Pass to the west, the U.S. border to the south and the Alberta-saskatchew­an border to the east.

“This team is a tool in the tool box to assist with law enforcemen­t,” said Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis. “We will not allow drug cartels or organized criminals to import illegal drugs and guns and human traffickin­g, which is occurring and coming across the border. Having the SCAN team's jurisdicti­on go up to two borders will help combat this.”

Between 2019 and September 2023, SCAN investigat­ors based in Calgary responded to almost 500 complaints on properties in the communitie­s to be served by the new Lethbridge-based team. Basing SCAN investigat­ors out of Lethbridge eliminates the lengthy travel time between Calgary and Lethbridge, said Ellis.

The province's 2023 budget includes funds to double the size of the SCAN unit and establish regional teams in strategic hubs, he said. Ellis did not provide specific costs for the Lethbridge-based unit on Wednesday.

“Lethbridge is the first of these regional hubs, and we're committed to expanding,” said Ellis, later mentioning that Red Deer and some areas in northern Alberta are also being considered.

In Lethbridge, SCAN investigat­ors responded to 363 complaints between 2019 and Sept. 30, 2023. Alberta Sheriffs deputy chief Greg Medley said those Lethbridge cases have resulted in nine community safety orders, in which Calgary SCAN investigat­ors got legal authorizat­ion to close properties for a specific time.

Medley said the “vast majority” of complaints are resolved informally, through working with the owners to put an end to illegal activity on their properties.

But “more extreme” cases require more serious action, such as a community safety order, he added.

Albertans who want to file a complaint against a property can do so by filling out a form at report-suspicious-property or calling 1-866-960-7226.

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