Seventeen people are facing charges following an investigation that saw undercover officers get robbed while looking into the drug trade at Victoria’s Centennial Square, police said Wednesday.
Officers arrested five of the accused while 12 remain wanted on warrants.
Police say the investigation began after the area experienced a rise in violent crime, including someone shooting at City Hall windows with a compressed air gun, multiple assaults and two stabbings on Aug. 10.
Over the next five days, undercover officers posing as customers purchased drugs — including methamphetamine, cocaine, psilocybin and fentanyl — from tents located in Centennial Square, police said.
“Our undercover officers faced violence in Centennial Square,” Victoria police tweeted Wednesday.
“They were robbed while conducting the operation.”
Five Victoria residents — Jamaal Ali Johnson, Desaree Gloria-Lee Solley, Tomas Paul Podhora, Christopher John Ferland and Julian Michael Peterson — have been charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
Downtown Victoria Business Association executive director Jeff Bray said there has been a surge in property crime related to growing homeless encampments, including one in Centennial Square.
In a statement to Global News, Mayor Lisa Helps said Friday she was looking at the possibility of a bylaw change to ban camping in the central business district.
“It has become evident that an encampment in the downtown is not working for anyone,” she said.
Victoria police issued a warning Tuesday after someone discovered an uncapped needle taped to a park bench in Centennial Square that morning. The needle was placed in such a way that someone who sat on the bench would have been harmed, police said.
Police have issued similar warnings in the past, most recently when a dirty needle was discovered in Beacon Hill Park earlier this month.
— With files from Simon Little