Police concerned about crime near Abbotsford homeless camps

Witnesses report weapons, including guns, being brandished by drug dealers hoping to intimidate clients.

Crime has risen significantly along Gladys Avenue as two homeless camps in the area have grown, according to Abbotsford Police.

Property crime has more than doubled in the area, but even more concerning to police are reports that weapons have been brandished against the camps’ residents.

Const. Ian MacDonald said police have been told “individuals have been brandishing weapons that appear to be handguns and long guns.”

Knives and bear spray have also been seen. Police believe drug traffickers – who live elsewhere – are bringing the weapons to intimidate clients who call the camp home.

While police have already arrested and charged one person with dealing drugs in the area, MacDonald said the problems persist.

“What we’re finding is you arrest the person in charge of dealing right now and then someone else fills that void,” he said.

He said crime has increased 22 per cent in the area since the homeless camps appeared earlier this year. Property crime has risen by 118 per cent and neighbours have reported thefts of items left outside, like patio furniture and propane tanks

“We’re not suggesting that the people in the camps are criminals,” MacDonald said. “What we’re saying is that there is criminal activity including drug dealing taking place down there.”

Police have investigated the incidents, identified some of the individuals connected to the weaponry and executed one search warrant. So far, though, they have been unable to seize any of the weapons.

The majority of the tents are on land owned by BC Hydro, which last week posted “no trespassing” signs and issued eviction notices to residents.

BC Hydro hopes to have the land cleared by July 31.

MacDonald said he hopes residents will take advantage of new rental supplements offered by BC Housing to obtain permanent housing. He also praised the Salvation Army for residents hoping to obtain permanent housing.

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