Victoria police say 15 men and two women are facing a total of 18 drug trafficking charges following an undercover investigation in Centennial Square.
The VicPD Strike Force, Community Services Division and Patrol officers participated in the investigation.
Police announced Thursday that ten people have been arrested and there are warrants for the seven others.
UPDATE | 10 of the 17 people wanted on drug trafficking warrants after Strike Force, CSD & Patrol officers conducted an undercover investigation in response to violence in Centennial Square have now been arrested. #yyj https://t.co/ZNj6mCKM1o
— Victoria Police (@vicpdcanada) August 27, 2020
According to police, officers were at Centennial Square as a response to “increased violent crime linked to the drug trade in the area.”
Recent incidents included the shooting of City Hall windows with a compressed air gun, multiple assaults and two stabbings on Aug. 10, police said.
From Aug. 11 to 15, undercover officers posed as customers and purchased drugs from tents located in Centennial Square. Police said the drugs included methamphetamine, cocaine, psilocybin and fentanyl.
Police said officers learned that several tents were used primarily for drug trafficking on a rotating basis.
“Officers observed that one day a tent would be used for drug transactions, while the next day bedding would be moved into the tent for someone to sleep in. The following day, the bedding would be removed and the same tent would revert to being used for drug trafficking,” a release from VicPD said.
While doing surveillance throughout the investigation, officers saw one of the suspects allegedly leave a residence, drive to Centennial Square and park a block away. The suspect then allegedly went to a tent in the square. Police said the tent was set up to conduct drug trafficking.
“Additional surveillance led VicPD officers to stop a man who had entered Centennial Square with a concealed weapon. When officers spoke to the man, he remarked that he was armed with a concealed metal club as protection against the violence in Centennial Square,” VicPD said.
Undercover officers also reported that they experienced threats of violence while working in Centennial Square, police said.
Here are the arrests made so far in the investigation:
Jamaal Ali Johnson, a 41-year-old Victoria man, is charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
Desaree Gloria-Lee Solley, a 35-year-old Victoria woman, is charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
Tomas Paul Podhora, a 28-year-old Victoria man, is charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
Christopher John Ferland, a 31-year-old Victoria man, is charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
Julian Michael Peterson, a 23-year-old Victoria man, is charged with trafficking a controlled substance.
Release stipulations will include conditions not to attend Centennial Square, police said. Twelve people remain wanted on outstanding warrants in relation to this investigation. An additional individual faces a robbery charge related to the investigation.