Drug House In Your Neighbourhood

Detachment Commander of the Vernon RCMP, Supt. Shawna Baher, speaking to Block Watch coordinators at the BWS-BC 2018 Training Symposium.

Why drug houses are hard to identify:

  • They blend in: A drug house wants to stay in business as long as possible, so they try not to stand out. Drug houses can look like any other house in the neighbourhood, and they can pop up in any part of the city or province.
  • Rental Units: Although rental properties are more vulnerable, this should not reflect poorly on tenants in general. Here’s why they’re targeted:
    • Rental houses make it harder for police to track the occupant. Tenants with no criminal history are often set up as the ideal primary renter – until their troublesome associates move in.
    • Drug traffickers or producers don’t like to use their own homes since these risk being seized by the government through civil forfeiture.
    • Absentee landlords are perfect targets for potential drug houses because, being absent, they miss the signs and fail to evict problematic tenants.

Reporting on Activity: You may have different suspicious activity to report depending on the type of drug house. Each of the below types come with separate Criminal Code infractions and require different strategies by police and bylaw officers.

  • PRODUCTION HOUSE (clan lab): These require solvents or chemicals to process raw materials. Observe unmarked containers or discarded chemical container labels (but DO NOT handle anything). Keep any surveillance footage relating to suspects transporting, loading or dumping waste or equipment relating to drug production.
    • Marijuana Extraction: Just marihuana odour, but organic solvents are used
    • Meth Production: Strong odour of chemicals and cat urine
    • Ecstasy (MDMA) Production: Strong odour of chemicals and black licorice
  • TRAFFICKING HOUSE: These are drug houses from which product is being sold. Police require observations on suspicious activity such as:
    • High volume of short duration visits (2-5 minutes). What time of day is busiest?
    • One person may wait in the car – parked away from the house – while the other person runs in and out.
    • Usually some security, such as cameras and boarded-up windows.
    • Will often run 24 hours a day, with “staff” working in shifts.
    • May also combine their “business” with prostitution or drug-use.
    • Observe doors commonly used by suspects.
  • DRUG-USE HOUSE (flop house): These are harder to investigate, but the police will do everything they in their power to help move them out of a neighbourhood.
    • High volume of visitors that stay for longer periods of time
    • Increased crime in area due to presence of drug users who often commit crime to support their drug habit.
    • May find discarded drug paraphernalia around the house.
    • More common than the other types, and can be confused for trafficking houses.

What you can do:

  • Report it: Every call the police receives is another opportunity to investigate.
  • Do not confront: Risk of retaliation is extremely small, but since the problem is in your neighbourhood, you will have more peace of mind if you do not make it obvious to the occupants of the house that you are reporting to police. You want them to think that all their neighbours are just as likely to call the police.
  • Join Block Watch: We are preaching to the choir, here, but you know that Block Watch reinforces the idea that every neighbour will call the police if they see suspicious activity.

Who to call: If you suspect a drug house has popped up in your neighbourhood, try to call as soon as you can link it to observable illegal or illicit activity.

  • 9-1-1 for crimes in progress, or if you have new information on an active clan lab.
  • Call your local Non-Emergency Line if you see suspicious activity.
  • 1-800-222-8477 to remain anonymous with Crime Stoppers.
  • Residential Tenancy Branch: If you are familiar with the landlord, and you find a safe opportunity to advise them, refer them to eviction forms and other resources on the RTB website: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy