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Alberta

Two Million Dollar Drug Bust in Edmonton

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News Release from ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team)

Project Elk concludes with eight arrests, millions in drugs and assets seized

A two-year cross-Canada drug trafficking investigation has concluded with eight Edmonton suspects facing charges. ALERT seized roughly $2 million in drugs, cash, and proceeds of crime.

Project Elk was a lengthy investigation into an Edmonton-based drug trafficking network that was involved in drug importation. Eight suspects were arrested and charged in October 2021 with offences ranging from drug and firearms related, to conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, to commission of an offence for a criminal organization.

The suspects are scheduled to make their initial court appearances on November 25, 2021.

“Project Elk will prove to be significant disruption to drug markets in Edmonton and other communities in northern Alberta. The negative impacts of drug trafficking are multi-faceted and connect back to societal harms such as gang-related violence, theft, property crimes, and healthcare implications,” said Inspector Kevin Berge, ALERT Edmonton.

ALERT Edmonton’s organized crime team spearheaded the investigation in November 2019, and Project Elk also involved the assistance of the Edmonton Police Service, and specialized RCMP units from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.

In August 2020, ALERT intercepted a six-kilogram cocaine shipment that originated in Toronto. The seizure precipitated a series of search warrant executions in which six homes in the Edmonton were searched and one home in Strathcona County.

Project Elk resulted in the seizure of:

  • Five firearms;
  • 10 kilograms of cocaine;
  • 17 kilograms of a cocaine buffing agent;
  • 4.7 kilograms of meth;
  • 2.9 kilograms of cannabis; and
  • $135,000 cash.

In addition, ALERT seized roughly $200,000 in offence related property, including three vehicles, jewelry, diamond rings, and Rolex watches.

“The drug trade doesn’t pay in the end. If you’re not shot, you’re ending up in jail, and you’re only hurting the people around you. It’s not the glamourous lifestyle that is fictionalized for the sake of TV and movies,” said Berge.

A total of 35 criminal charges have been laid against:

  • Tyshawn Walters, 29-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Kashane Walters, 34-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Kariyawasam Kariyawasam, 39-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Tyree Malcolm, 28-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Levi Collinge, a 39-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Boris Derpich, 43-year-old man from Edmonton;
  • Stacey Sharpe, 35-year-old woman from Edmonton; and
  • Trevor Bellows, 31-year-old man from Edmonton.

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.

Alberta

First test production of plastic a milestone for Heartland Petrochemical Complex

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CALGARY — The $4.3-billion Heartland Petrochemical Complex, which has been under construction northeast of Edmonton since 2018, has produced its first plastic pellets.

Owner and operator Inter Pipeline Ltd. said Tuesday the newly commissioned facility has been producing test pellets steadily since late June, an important milestone en route to the expected start of full commercial operation sometime this fall.

The Heartland Petrochemical Complex will convert Alberta propane into 525,000 tonnes per year of polypropylene beads, an easily transported form of plastic that is used in the manufacturing of a wide range of finished products.

Steven Noble, spokesman for Calgary-based Inter Pipeline, said the facility will be the first integrated propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene production facility in North America. He said approximately 70 per cent of Heartland’s total production capacity has been already contracted out to long-term customers.

“Through the duration of the project’s construction, we’ve seen demand for polypropylene increase significantly … including at one point hitting an all-time record (market price),” Noble said in an interview. “The demand that we initially forecast certainly hasn’t gone away.”

The Heartland facility is being built with the support of a $408-million grant from Alberta’s provincial government. The cash grant, part of an incentive program aimed at growing the province’s petrochemicals sector, is to be paid to Inter Pipeline in equal instalments over three years once the complex is operational.

Noble said by creating a new market for propane, the Heartland facility is an example of how natural resource development in Alberta is diversifying.

“The fact that we’re now looking at our raw resources in a different way, and figuring out different ways to get value out of them and create other refined products right here at home … is really the part of the story that everyone here is excited about,” he said.

The Heartland Petrochemical Complex is expected to employ 300 people once fully operational.

The polypropylene produced at the facility will be branded as Heartland Polymers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 5, 2022.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Edmonton council to ask province to support new centre to fight downtown crime

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By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

City council has voted unanimously to ask the government of Alberta to support the creation of a hub in Edmonton’s Chinatown where social workers, firefighters and peace officers could work together to reduce crime.

City administration submitted a report to council Monday that describes the proposed Healthy Streets Operations Centre.

David Jones, who is with the city and presented the report, told councillors it would not be a traditional police station.

“The people who will see the benefits of this include Chinatown residents and businesses, but also people who are on the streets who are vulnerable and being preyed on by some of the criminal element,” Jones said.

The creation of the centre is one of several actions the city has promised to address a spike in violent crime downtown, in nearby Chinatown and on the transit system.

Edmonton police officers have already increased their presence in problem areas.

In May, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro used his ministerial power to demand a report from the city on what is being done to get crime under control.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said during Monday’s council meeting that the city has delivered with its plan for the centre and now it is time for the province to step up.

“Edmonton gets the lowest per-capita funding to support ending homelessness compared to seven other cities (in Alberta). I think it’s really important that we ask the people whose inaction has caused harm to the community to be stepping up,” Sohi said.

“Most of the violence in Chinatown is related to houselessness … and addictions causing a lot of harm to the community and to individuals. We’re asking city taxpayers to pick up the pieces or pay for the consequences of lack of investment in health and lack of investment in housing.”

Sohi added he gets the sense the province wants to help.

The provincial government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report says the centre will operate seven days a week, 21 hours a day, and could cost up to $18.1 million over the next four years.

The city and Edmonton Police Service could partially support the centre and Jones said there have also been offers from different businesses in Chinatown to provide a building for the hub at no cost.

But council voted in favour of asking the provincial government to determine how it can provide mental health, housing and shelter support.

Sohi said he plans to engage with the province and will report back to council on Aug. 15.

Jones said to get the centre up and running by next summer, the city aims to hire four peace officer sergeants, 16 community peace officers, two community safety liaisons and three firefighters or fire prevention officers.

The report said community members asked for increased security in problem areas and that building a centre in “hot spots” can effectively reduce crime. Research cited in the report has also shown it wont displace violence to other areas.

“Studies have consistently found no noticeable displacement and, in some cases, a diffusion effect, meaning that hot-spot policing reduces crime in the areas adjacent to the hot spots as well.”

Dr. Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at the University of Alberta, said the hub model has been around for at least a decade in Canada and the centre is a good start.

“The real test is to ensure it is not too heavily tilted toward and reliant on policing,” he said in a email.

“The approach needs to have law enforcement as one of several critical components with people, community revitalization and customized social service at the epicentre.”

Oriola added the centre would be most effective in reducing crime if it also goes hand-in-hand with other initiatives in the city that address addictions issues and homelessness.

“Employment created should also focus on those most directly connected to Chinatown,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 4, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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