Red Deer RCMP have made a big sweep of the City’s mean streets, charging 21 people – including 10 prostitutes and 11 johns – as a result of a three-month long investigation.
“This does impact the quality of life in our community and as police we are duty bound to take enforcement action,” said Red Deer city RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson at a news conference Wednesday.
He told reporters that sex trade workers are a very vulnerable segment of society “subject to violence on a fairly regular basis unfortunately. A lot of times that goes unreported to police.
“There are undercurrents of addiction to this issue as well and a lot of social issues at play here.”
Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director of the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society, told reporters at the news conference most of the people working in the sex trade on the streets have some issues related to their health – specifically addictions and mental health.
“They are also huge victims of violence, and it goes hugely under-reported,” she said.
“Red Deer is the third largest centre in Alberta, and I think we forget that we are third largest centre in the province. People travel – sex workers travel and people in the drug trade travel. At the end of the day, we’ve got 90,000 people – not the 60,000 of years back.”
The investigation included Red Deer City RCMP General Investigation Section, Street Team, Organized Crime Unit in partnership with the ALERT Combined Forces Special Enforcement Units. The police initiated the investigation in response to concern expressed by the citizens of Red Deer.
Red Deer residents who were charged in the sting are Melanie Fleury, 36; Stephanie Walroth, 42; Echo Thompson, 24; Patricia Roan, 50; Nichole Schaub, 24; Wanda Essex, 46; Amanda Lewis, 21; April Osbak, 26; Claudine Nadeau, 41; Fallon Hughes, 28; Matthew Mundell, 38; Ryan Rauch, 34; James Athanasopoulos, 47; Steven Warner, 37; Steven Sandor, 20 and Barry Pess, 54.
Also charged were Calgarians David Munson, 34; Abdullah Shajani, 62 and Joseph Cormier, 54; David Tetz, 55, of Trochu and Kevin Irion, 46, of Lacombe.
Simpson said the focus during the investigation was on the City’s downtown core.
“One of the key messages I want to get out to the johns is that we as police are aware of your activities,” he said. “If you are going to access these services, sooner or later you are going to come to our attention and there are significant consequences to what you do.”
Investigation into drug trafficking in Red Deer resulted in the execution of five search warrants, seizure of drugs, weapons, and money, and 48 CDSA and Criminal charges.
On June 10, 2010 a search warrant was executed on a room at the South Hill Motor Inn. Police seized crack cocaine, marihuana, money and one vehicle. Police charged Mayom Mayom, 22, of Winnipeg; Anne Ogidan, 19, of Winnipeg; Mathing Chol, 19 and a 17- year-old female who can not be named.
On June 19 a search warrant was also executed on a residence on Addington Dr. Police seized cocaine, marihuana, ecstacy, zip guns, money, and one vehicle. Police charged Nabil Abdullah, 21, of Fort McMurray.
On June 22, a search warrant was executed on an apartment on Cornett Dr. and police seized cocaine, money and one vehicle. Police charged Riak Kur, 28, of Red Deer.
On July 20, a search warrant was executed on a residence on Fairway Ave. Police seized cocaine, methamphetamine, money, and bear spray. Police charged David Ellison, 31; Krista Rix, 26 and Angie Deneff, 28, all of Red Deer.
On July 22, a search warrant was executed at a residence on 60th St. Police seized cocaine, marihuana, psylocybin, hashish, a shotgun and various edged weapons. Police charged Michael Langille, 33, of Red Deer.
“A lot of times individuals living a criminal lifestyle have these weapons not because of the police, but for protection from other criminals,” said Simpson. “But the reality is once they have these weapons in their possession, they usually use them because it’s a way to deal with the situation. And we are seeing more weapons unfortunately.”
Simpson emphasized that help from the community is critical in bringing these cases to light and delivering justice.
“The police need the community support. We’re not going to be the total solution – just part of it.”