A crackdown on drug trafficking on Edmonton's LRT system has resulted in 135 criminal charges against 40 people, the Edmonton Police Service said Thursday.
Operation Derailment targeted street-level trafficking in and around LRT stations. It marked the first crackdown of its kind by Edmonton police.
Edmonton's busy LRT stations provide natural cover for street-level drug traffickers, Sgt. Jacob Montgomery told reporters outside police headquarters Thursday afternoon.
"It's a public location so there's a lot of people waiting for buses and trains," Montgomery said. "It's easy to blend in. So it's easy to loiter there and blend in with the other people there.
"It's a good opportunity for drug traffickers to conduct their trade without getting noticed or caught."
'We will catch them'
The results of Operation Derailment should demonstrate to drug traffickers that they are under surveillance, he said.
"The best part is those that are conducting street-level drug trafficking at the LRT stations are now going to be looking over their shoulder, because at any point they could have a plainclothes police officer standing 10 feet away.
"So I want them to tell their friends, I want them to share that so that they're much more concerned about conducting that activity on the LRT system, so it doesn't happen — because we will catch them."
The EPS LRT beat team worked with the undercover drug street team from Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) and conducted a number of investigations from November until January.
Just one strategy
In total, 135 charges were laid — mostly for drug trafficking and possession of proceeds of crime — against 35 men and five women. Most of the accused had extensive criminal records for crimes such as robbery, break and enter, weapons offences and violence, Montgomery said in a news release.
Police also executed 17 criminal warrants and two bylaw warrants.
The people charged ranged in age from 16 to 43. Police recovered 18 grams of methamphetamine, 1.25 grams of crack cocaine and buprenorphine pills.
"Where there's street level drug trafficking there's violence and property crimes, often committed by drug users that are looking to support their habit," Montgomery said.
He added crackdowns such as Operation Derailment will not, by themselves, solve all crime issues around Edmonton's LRT stations.
"This is just one strategy among many," he said. Other initiatives include high-visibility patrols, helping public transit users be more aware of their surroundings and "target-harden themselves when they're out riding the train."
But tackling street-level drug trafficking helps curb other crimes, he noted.
"Where there's street level drug trafficking there's violence and property crimes, often committed by drug users that are looking to support their habit."