The Calgary Police Service, along with the Calgary Fire Department, has removed the growing homeless encampment next to the Drop-In Centre on Thursday, as part of Operation East Side.
The increasing numbers and severity of violent attacks against members of Calgary’s homeless community was cited by CPS as the reason for the removal of the encampment.
The decision to remove the encampment was made in conjunction by the City of Calgary, Calgary Drop-In Centre, and the Calgary Homeless Foundation.
CFD was on hand to remove hazardous materials, heating hazards, and safely dispose of needles. The City of Calgary’s partner agencies ensured that personal belongings were removed safety and remained with their owners. They also provided social support, offering indoor shelter, storage for belongings, and any other assistance that individuals required during the clearing.
“The expectation is that from now on this area will remain free and clear of obstructions, both by way of physical structures, and violent or intimidating behaviour,” said the statement released today by the City of Calgary.
Since December of last year, 27 violent assaults with weapons and sexual assaults, including the repeated sexual assault of a minor, have occurred along Dermot Baldwin Way, police said. Many of the attacks have left victims seriously and permanently injured.
Operation East Side investigations revealed that the primary cause of violence was a result of organized criminal activity to control the street outside of the Drop-In Centre.
“This group has hindered access to the Calgary Drop-In Centre by creating a gauntlet of violence and drug trafficking,” said Insp. Clare Smart.
“We believe this group uses violence to control drug trafficking in the area for what has become very valuable territory for the traffickers,” she said.
Extensive and violent criminal activity targeting the homeless
Smart said that the tents along Dermot Baldwin Way have been used to store weapons and drugs.
Search warrants were obtained to search three tents in the encampment, and as a result 28 weapons were seized along with 20 grams of fentanyl and 21 grams of methamphetamine.
“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,” said Smart.
To date during Operation East Side, 12 suspects have been arrested for a total of 71 charges. Additional charges are expected to follow, including enforcement of 84 outstanding warrants.
CPS named seven individuals who have been alleged to have committed 63 offences, including assault with a weapon, possession of weapons dangerous to the public, carry of a concealed weapon, possession of controlled substances, breach of probation, and breach of release order.
The individuals arrested were Cody Brand North Peigan, Steven Morris Firingstoney, Preston Joseph Montour, Alexander Dalton Ray Moyah, Mohamed Maani, Jason James Jay, and Omot Ojullo.
The additional five individuals arrested were not named by CPS. The police said that this was due to the level of involvement, mental health, and one being a minor.
Stepped up enforcement and out-reach not enough in December
Calgary police stepped up enforcement along Dermot Baldwin Way in December to try and restore safe access to the area. Additional outreach resources were also provided to those living outside of the Drop-In Centre
In December, the City of Calgary approved $750,000 to help address cold weather conditions for unhoused Calgarians.
The decision to remove the encampment came after these efforts failed address the criminality and violence.
“Despite ongoing enforcement and outreach engagement, this group of individuals has continued to put others at risk,” said Insp. Smart.
Police cited the tendency of individuals to return to Dermot Baldwin Way after being released from custody, and immediately return to dealing drugs and committing acts of violence.
A safe re-start for the DI and surrounding areas
Calgary bylaw officers, along with partner agency liaison teams, will be continuing to monitor the site and preventing any new encampments from forming.
“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 Ryan Pleckaitis, Chief Bylaw Officer for the City of Calgary.
“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,” he said.
The Drop-In Centre said that it would be continuing its mission to try and connect those experiencing homelessness with permanent housing.
“The circumstances that contribute to homelessness are often complex and it takes time, trust, patience, and the resilience of staff, those seeking housing, and the community to create successful and sustained outcomes,” said executive director Sandra Clarkson for the Calgary Drop-In Centre.
“We are committed to providing access to safe shelter, health, and housing programs for those that seek our services.”