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Brakes Put on Drug Runners

When reports connecting a seizure of 100 kilograms of methamphetamine in Utah to drug dealers in Calgary began to cross Staff Sgt. Barry McCurdy’s desk in late 2016, he wanted to know more about the group’s Canadian connection. So he and his team started an investigation – and it turned into one of ALERT’s biggest success stories of the year.

In March 2018, ALERT announced the results of Project Arbour: 46 charges laid against five individuals; the seizure of fentanyl, buffing agent, seven kilograms of methamphetamine, two kilograms of cocaine and 8.5 kilograms of cannabis products; the dismantling of two clandestine labs located in Calgary residential neighbourhoods; and a link to a double homicide in May 2017.

This industrial pill press, capable of making 18,000 fentanyl pills an hour, was seized in Project Arbour.

With such a long list of positive outcomes, McCurdy believes this operation exemplified ALERT’s stated goal of disrupting and dismantling organized crime in the province.

“With all the different components of the investigation … I would say Arbour is a case where we truly disrupted and dismantled this organized crime group,” he says. “Between ALERT and CPS Homicide, we basically charged all the people who were involved in this organization.”

After the Utah seizure occurred in October 2016, McCurdy and his team began looking into the alleged leaders of the drug ring to see how involved they were in drug trafficking. They soon found fentanyl and heroin being transported into Canada, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration became more heavily involved.

Then, over the May long weekend in 2017, Colin Reitberger and Anees Amr were shot and killed in a southeast Calgary parking lot. ALERT was able to provide Calgary Police Service homicide detectives with what they knew about the recent activity of the organized crime group that allegedly committed the murders.

“We’ve developed – not just with homicide, but with a lot of the units here – a very good working relationship where we’re able to work hand-in-hand on investigations,” McCurdy says.

When ALERT executed its search warrants for Project Arbour in February 2018, the main goal was to locate and shut down a pill press that investigators believed the group was using to manufacture fentanyl pills – up to 18,000 per hour. The press was found in a garage in the Rosscarrock neighbourhood, and had to be destroyed due to the amount of fentanyl contamination.

“With all the deaths that are caused by opioids and fentanyl, a high-capacity pill press is a substantial danger to the public,” McCurdy says. “Combined with the knowledge and skill of the people using the press, that would definitely add to the danger to the public.”

Another lab found in the Cougar Ridge neighbourhood was producing cannabis resin, also known as shatter. McCurdy says this was the first time ALERT has dealt with such an operation in Calgary; most similar products they’ve seen so far have been brought in from British Columbia. The process of extracting cannabis resin uses highly flammable gases like butane. “We were aware of a couple of cases in B.C. where shatter labs had blown up or burned down. So it was a priority to make sure we took the shatter lab down and ensure that didn’t happen here in Calgary.”

Even though there were positive results on this file, McCurdy says he and his team aren’t ready to rest on their laurels.

“Arbour was a great file, and it’s hard to live up to,” he says, “but it certainly motivates us to look for other targets like [this group].”

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