Drug dealers looking to claim new turf in North Point Douglas are barking up the wrong tree, local residents say.
On Thurs., June 6, a dozen residents and their dogs took to Joe Zuken Park in a highly publicized media event meant to chase off a growing number of drug dealings in the neighbourhood.
"It’s our park. We don’t like drug deals happening around kids," said Chris Burrows, who, with her shih tzu, Zarzy, organized the late afternoon rally.
According to residents, the park has been clean from dealing for about six years since they last had to call in the hounds.
Roanna Hepburn first came up with the idea to gather a group of women and their dogs to harass dealers loitering in the park, which is also home to Ross House. The women, 10 in all, talked to the dealers while their dogs sniffed at their legs. Within a few days, the dealers left.
However, Hepburn, who lives near the park, has seen a new generation of dealers start to stake out territory, dealing from park benches, on bicycles and out of cars. Hepburn says she sees up to five deals a day at the park.
"They blatantly make deals in front of children," said Hepburn.
"They don’t care who sees them. That’s how confident they are."
Hepburn believes police aren’t interested in chasing off low-level street dealers, instead preferring to go after big-time suppliers. Two weeks ago, she began confronting them on her own, and said she’s even chased some down on foot to see where they hide.
Hepburn doesn’t believe she’s putting herself in danger.
"I don’t care, what are they going to do?" she said.
"Too many people are scared to protect their rights and their community. None of us here are scared."
Shortly after the dealers were first chased away, the much touted Power Line was set up, and crime has been on the decline in the area ever since, said resident Sel Burrows.
"We’ve gone from a high crime area to a moderate crime area," he said.
Burrows believes the new dealers are migrating from the William Whyte neighbourhood on the other side of Main Street. He dubbed them "ganglets" and doesn’t believe they are affiliated with any major city gang.
Still, people in Point Douglas look after each other, he said, and any heavies looking to set up shop will be chased out.
"All of Point Douglas is open turf, but no one controls this except for the people of Point Douglas," said Burrows.
"Anyone who tries to take this as their turf, we’ll kick them out."
Janina Skoczypiec, who has owned Metro Meats located across from the park for 30 years, said she didn’t know much about the drug dealings.
However, she supports a community effort to crack down on it.
"It’s a good idea," she said.
"We don’t need no problems."