One of Alberta's largest law enforcement agencies, responsible for investigating the most serious crimes committed across the province, has a new officer in charge.
Insp. Chad Coles of the RCMP has been appointed as the chief executive officer of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, ALERT announced Wednesday.
ALERT was established by the Alberta government in 2006 to combat organized and serious crime. The umbrella agency is made up of Alberta's most sophisticated law enforcement teams, with officers in communities stretching from Lethbridge in the south to Fort McMurray in the north.
Members of the provincially-funded, not-for-profit organization, which includes more than 300 officers, investigate everything from drug trafficking to child exploitation.
Coles, who has been posted in the Edmonton region for more than two years, sees no great need for change within the organization.
"We've been very successful in the past year ... I think we're progressing in the right direction, it's just a matter of making sure we're working closely with our partner agencies, identifying the new emerging trends," said Coles, noting that ALERT seized 13,000 fentanyl pills and a record number of firearms in the past year.
"That's always the biggest threat. There are always emerging trends and we have to be very responsive to those trends, in combating them."
Coles has been with ALERT since 2015 and oversaw regional organized crime teams based in Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Red Deer. He said the organization will continue to monitor new criminal threats with "intelligence-led" enforcement.
"We're coming across a greater number of guns and firearms when we're undertaking our drugs and organized crime investigations," he said.
"That's definitely a trend that we've noticed in the last couple of years, an emerging threat. And we're always aware of the presence of our outlaw motorcycle gangs here in the province."
Coles is a 21-year member of the RCMP who has spent much of his career with the force as a member of integrated units, including the Combined Forces Special Enforcement unit in Saskatchewan.
His new office will be based in Edmonton.
Coles replaces Supt. Charmaine Bulger, who recently retired after 35 years with the RCMP. His appointment was made official at the ALERT board of directors meeting in March, ALERT said.
Justice Minister and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley congratulated Coles on his appointment.
"His career leading organized crime teams throughout the province, as well as more than two decades with the RCMP, will enable him to lead this vital team of specialized units," Ganley said in a news release.
"The valuable work ALERT does is an integral part of ensuring the safety of all Albertans."
Since being formed in 2006, ALERT teams from across the province have made nearly 10,000 arrests. They have seized $595 million worth of illicit drugs and 1,200 firearms.