Merritt city council is sending a warning to the owners of all local hotels, motels and taxi companies to do their part to reduce drug trafficking in the community.

“We’ve got a drug issue in town and we just want all the hotels and some of the businesses that deal with these people to know that if they are they should stop and if not then something’s going to happen,” Merritt Mayor Neil Menard told the Herald.

At its Feb. 13 meeting, council unanimously approved two letters penned by Menard on behalf of the police committee asking that “each owner increase their efforts to ensure that their establishment is not knowingly or unknowingly used for this purpose.”

The letters warn that charges for service calls or the rescinding of business licenses could follow if the issue at an offending business is not resolved.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Sheila White said owners of motels and taxi companies haven’t necessarily been unco-operative with police over the years, but the letters serve as the first formal request to these businesses to watch for drug traffickers in her six years as detachment commander in Merritt.

“This letter that was sent out by the police committee gives them a heads up that our expectations and the community’s expectations to keep drugs out of our community is very high and we’re just asking for their help in doing that,” White told the Herald.

“Our police are having a tough time  keeping up with the drug dealers that come into town for a short period of time,” said Coun. Dave Baker, who sits own Merritt’s police committee.

Baker said Merritt RCMP have informed them of certain establishments in town that have had issues with drug trafficking and the committee has been looking at the best way to inform them this won’t be tolerated.

Drug trafficking is a big issue in Merritt, said White, who liaises with the police committee.

“A lot of our drug issues come from people that come in to our community and rent motel rooms and do their drug trafficking out of those rooms,” said White. “That’s a common theme that we have.”

One issue police have with busting these drug operations is traffickers becoming aware of police monitoring and changing motels before Mounties can get a warrant.

“It’s very difficult to get a search warrant in time because we need so much information before a search warrant will be authorized by the judiciary,” White said. “That’s another reason why the letter went out — it’s not just one hotel [or] motel.”

White said she hopes this letter will encourage hotel owners to call police if and when they suspect drug trafficking to be going on at their businesses. An anonymous tip can be made by calling Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

City council, local police target drug traffickers

Police hope owners of the local taxi companies will do the same when it comes to the role their type of businesses have been known to play in the drug trade.

“Sometimes the taxi drivers pick up fares and … the fare that they have in their vehicle is actually delivering drugs or going to pick up drugs from different places — not just residences,” said White. “If it happens often enough with the same group of people, then it’s very good odds they’re doing something nefarious.”

White said this is part of what is known as a dial-a-dope operation.

“It’s very common throughout the country actually,” said White, adding that a drug trafficker will take a cab to deliver the drug to someone at a particular location, sometimes not even exiting the vehicle to make the transaction.

“It’s just like ordering a pizza … and our taxi companies are being used in this way,” White said.

When it comes to recognizing drug trafficking activity, White said taxi drivers should be wary of repeat fares making short trips to no particular location.

As for motel owners, they should be aware of constant foot traffic in and out of the room.

“We’re asking hotels, motels to get the proper identification from the people who are renting the room,” White added.

According to police quarterly reports crack cocaine is the “primary drug of choice” circulating in Merritt and fentanyl, heroin and crystal meth are all readily available.

Menard mentioned at the meeting that while this activity doesn’t transpire at all of the local motels and taxi companies, there are some where it does and “it’s time to, for a lack of a better term, for the city and this council to get a little tougher on that situation.”

Good neighbour bylaw pursued

After approving the letters warning hotels and taxi companies to help clean up potential  drug trafficking at their businesses, Coun. Dave Baker made a notice of motion requesting staff look into a cost recovery program for repeated first responder calls to residences similar to Kamloops’ good neighbour bylaw.

His motion will come up for discussion at the next council meeting.

Kamloops city council passed a bylaw which would deems a property a nuisance if RCMP or other emergency services are called to it more than twice in 24 hours or three times in a year, with the goal of tackling rental properties causing repeated disturbances and making neighbours feel unsafe.

Once that threshold is passed, the city has the power to charge the property owner for officers, vehicles and other personnel dispatched to the scene.

Merritt’s police committee discussed the idea of implementing a similar bylaw at a meeting in January, but Baker told the Herald it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for to deal with these problem businesses.

Merritt has a good neighbour policy, but implementing a bylaw like the one in Kamloops would put a little more teeth into it, Baker told the Herald.