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In its fight against serious and organized crime in Alberta, ALERT prides itself on employing some of the most sophisticated law enforcement resources. But one of those resources is one that the public doesn’t often hear about.
Members of ALERT’s Drug Undercover Street Team (DUST) regularly work in cities and towns all across Alberta to assist local authorities in gathering intelligence on drug trafficking investigations that contribute to overall safer communities. The scale of these investigations may be large or small, but many of them would not be possible without the work DUST does behind the scenes.
“They [DUST] are by far the best resource we’ve ever had. In the general investigation section here, we have nothing but good to say about them,” said Staff Sgt. Brad Lazicki with the Lloydminster RCMP, a detachment whose files DUST has assisted with on numerous occasions. “We’ve always had fantastic results … they’re very valuable to us.”
“By nature of the work the DUST team conduct, they remain out of the limelight. They continue to do their hard and often dangerous work, remaining unsung heroes in the large-scale takedowns involving organized crime that are prosecuted before courts in Alberta on a regular basis,” added Insp. Marc Cochlin, ALERT. “Internally, within the law enforcement community, we understand the value the DUST teams bring to the overall safety to the communities. We thank them and acknowledge their positive impact on behalf of the community as they remain purposely hidden from public praise.”
According to Cochlin, the demand for DUST’s expertise and specialized skills is high and comes from communities across Alberta, big and small, urban and rural.
“The provincial footprint the team services requires substantial logistical planning and a lot of travel hours,” he said. “In the interim, the prioritization of their assist files and investigations becomes more and more important as rural Alberta continues to fight the same crime trends as Alberta’s major urban centres.”
But those long travel hours and plans are worth it to build relationships between local law enforcement agencies and ALERT, which benefit both sides.
“Overall, it has definitely been a positive experience for us here,” said Staff Sgt. Sarah Parke, commander of the RCMP detachment in Bonnyville, one of many communities where DUST has worked over the years.
“Simply put, the detachment on its own doesn’t have the resources or expertise to undertake projects like these, so it means a lot,” she adds.
St. Albert RCMP detachment commander Insp. Pamela Robinson agrees, saying that DUST allows her team to work much more efficiently and not fall behind on other tasks.
“It creates efficiency in our ability to conduct these complex investigations, and decreases our fiscal footprint; we’re not having to spend more manpower trying to conduct these investigations when we can utilize these specialized techniques to identify targets, locations and vehicles,” she said.
The ultimate goal, though — for both local agencies and ALERT — is to enhance the overall safety of the communities they serve. Part of that is the longer sentences that come when drug traffickers are caught in the act.
“Persons charged as a result of DUST projects have been getting significant sentences, ranging from two to four years in custody for the last batch that went through the courts,” Parke said. “We’re really seeing a positive outcome and, as a result, the community is safer.”
Lazicki added that it’s noticeable when DUST teams have paid a visit to Lloydminster.
“When they come down and we end up doing multiple arrests, every time that happens, the watch notices. There’s a significant impact — whether it’s general calls, whether it’s thefts, whether it’s violent crimes, everything seems to bottom out for a while,” he said. “The impact they have is awesome. We love having them here; they’re great people to work with.”