New crime-fighting unit ramps up police presence in southern Alberta

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis, right, announces a new SCAN unit, alongside Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen, left, one of the initiative's partners.  (Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis, right, announces a new SCAN unit, alongside Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen, left, one of the initiative's partners. (Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)

A new crime-fighting unit for southern Alberta was announced by the provincial government Wednesday in Lethbridge, responding to increased complaints about criminal activity in the area.

In 2008, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) unit of the Alberta Sheriffs was established to tackle illegal activity on properties such as drug trafficking, child exploitation and gang-related crime.

A new team of six SCAN investigators from the Alberta Sheriffs will be based in Lethbridge.

The initiative will be funded through the $709 million set aside in the province's 2023 budget to tackle organized crime.

"Today's announcement is in line with our government's plan as announced in Budget 2023 to double the size of the SCAN unit and establish new regional teams in strategic hubs," said Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis.

The Lethbridge hub is the first to come out of this plan.

Ellis says the addition of a new SCAN team will help complaints coming from southern Alberta get addressed in a more timely manner.

"The SCAN unit in Calgary investigated 363 properties in Lethbridge, which is about 20 per cent of its case load during that period," he said.

"In addition there has been a significant increase in complaints from Medicine Hat and other southern Alberta communities — emphasizing the need for increased law enforcement efforts in the region."

The area covered by the new SCAN team will roughly be restricted within Vulcan to the north, Crowsnest Pass to the west, the U.S. border to the south, and the provincial boundary with Saskatchewan to the east.

The deputy chief of the Alberta Sheriffs, Greg Medley, says the SCAN unit has been an effective tool for the investigations and hopes the new team in southern Alberta will help mitigate current criminal activity.

"The SCAN units' work with police has been in many cases an effective combination for putting a stop to criminal activity that has plagued some neighbourhoods for long periods of time," said Medley.

Lethbridge Mayor Blaine Hyggen says community safety is a priority and that drug houses and drug dealers are not welcome in Lethbridge.

"Having a SCAN unit dedicated to southern Alberta will be absolutely a game changer," said Hyggen.

Ellis also spoke Wednesday about this week's shooting in northeast Calgary that killed one person and injured two others.

"It's absolutely horrific that there was a shooting, it's horrific that there's two young people involved, this is the sort of stuff that is unacceptable in our province," said Ellis.

"I just know that we're going to continue to do whatever it takes to keep all Albertans safe."