An encampment outside the Calgary Drop-In Centre, described by police as a “gauntlet of violence and drug trafficking,” has been dismantled.
Calgary police, the fire department, bylaw officers and several social agencies were on hand Thursday as the tents and make-shift shelters were removed as part of Operation East Side.
In a news release Thursday, police said there have been more than 27 violent encounters at the encampment since Dec. 1, including assault with weapons and sexual assaults, including one of a minor.
“Our investigation has shown that a criminal element has become entrenched along Dermot Baldwin Way,” said Insp. Clare Smart.
“The temporary structures have been used to store drugs and a significant number of deadly weapons including machetes, swords, knives, sledgehammers and firearms, all of which have been used against vulnerable members of the public simply trying to access the Calgary Drop-In Centre.”
CPS stepped up patrols in the area in early December and several social-serving agencies have been working to connect vulnerable individuals in the area to the resources available to support them.
Despite these efforts, the violence continued and as a result, a number of individuals have been arrested.
“We believe this group uses violence to control drug trafficking in the area for what has become very valuable territory for the traffickers,” said Smart.
“Violence will not be tolerated in our city, full stop. Our goal with this enforcement and collaborative intervention initiative is to create a safe space for people to access the services they need.”
During Operation East Side, investigators took the unique step to request judicial authorization on three separate search warrants to access and search individual tents on Dermot Baldwin Way.
As a result of the searches, a total of 28 weapons were seized along with 20 grams of fentanyl and 21 grams of methamphetamine.
The Calgary Fire Department was on hand to safely remove items of concern like needles, hazardous materials and heating hazards so city crews could remove remaining debris.
“The area outside the Drop-In must remain clear to ensure that people who need critical supports feel safe and welcome to access them,” said Chief Bylaw Officer Ryan Pleckaitis.
“For that reason, we will continue to monitor this site to ensure encampments don’t reoccur in this space, but as always our Partner Agency Liaison teams will be out regularly meeting with individuals sleeping rough and offering support and safer indoor options.”
To date, 12 suspects have been arrested, totaling 71 criminal charges, in addition to 84 outstanding warrants.
More charges are expected to follow.