Expert says police can’t keep up with growth in organized crime
Alberta’s boom has created a bane of misery for city police forces who’ve become overwhelmed by exploding gang activity, says a criminal expert studying their movements across the province.
Gangs have become more organized and now reach their fingers deep into communities, fuelled by an economic boom that brings increases in drug use and crime, says William Pitt, a sociology professor at the University of Alberta.
“Since there is a lot of money in this province, organized criminal organizations, like the Hells Angels, are thriving in Alberta,” he says.
In Edmonton, the police have temporarily depleted their drug unit to one officer as a number of them have been moved to higher priority sections, he said.
“It’s appalling because organized criminal organizations and gangs, like the Hells Angels and the Crazy Dragons, will take advantage of it,” he added.
Pitt’s comments come on the heels of a report by the Criminal Intelligence Service Alberta, which compiled annual statistics from city police forces and the RCMP.
The 20-page report, released last week, says property theft, drug distribution, gang violence, and social dysfunction are all on the rise across the province.
Despite declines in many crime categories, a five-year trend points to an alarming increase in serious crimes, including a boom in the drug trade, the report states.
Drug addiction is also exploding across the province with an increase in calls for help to a 24-hour hotline run by the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).
“Surely it has a lot to do with the amount of people that are moving (here),” said a co-ordinator for the hotline, who didn’t want her name published.
Pitt considers the provincial capital to be the front door for drugs supplied to Northern Alberta, and a hub for drug dealers who are importing drugs from B.C.
In Edmonton, police have expanded an anti-drug house initiative citywide in an effort at curbing the growing drug problem.
Gang activity is also on the rise in small centres, with gangs being identified in Camrose, Provost, Slave Lake, and Wainwright, he says.
“It’s insidious how Edmonton is a focal point for the drug industry,” he says.