Along with chasing down criminals, Prince George RCMP are keeping an eye out for problem properties - the kind that look like the perfect places for nefarious activities - and they seem to have no trouble finding them.
At 2511 Oak St. in the VLA neighbourhood sits an entire apartment building that is now boarded up after RCMP found it completely vacated but for one tenant on the bottom floor.
The building came to RCMP's attention when they got word one night that a prolific offender allegedly involved in crack shacks was squatting in the location.
The two RCMP members who entered the building in pursuit of the suspect soon knew it could be the scene of more trouble if action was not taken.
The next day, Prince George RCMP Cpl. Craig Douglass and Insp. Brad Anderson were on the scene. Along with the lone tenant moving out, packing his possessions into a van parked out front, they found a building in tatters.
"There were very few places I couldn't get too," Douglass said Wednesday while guiding a Citizen reporter and photographer on a tour of trouble spots in the VLA.
"In most places the boards were taken down or the doors kicked in and it was basically a derelict building and a mess."
The city's bylaw enforcement service was contacted the same day and the building was boarded up.
When Douglass went around the back to get a closer look, however, he noticed one of the plywood boards had been loosened enough to allow someone to gain entry. He quickly pulled out a flashlight and looked inside and then called Anderson to let him know.
"People are trying to get into these buildings and they can hide here, reside here, whatever it is," Douglass said. "We need the property owners to be responsible for their properties and secure them."
Fifteen minutes later, a pickup truck was seen parked out front with its driver door opened. Just as Douglass pulled into the parking lot, two men emerged from the building but they turned out to have been called in by the owner to re-key the building's lock. Douglass let them know of the loose plywood in the back.
There are signs more rental property owners are getting the message.
At 2642 Milburn St., the home is not only boarded up but a "do not enter" sign has been posted, complete with the name and phone number of a real estate management service.
But there still are problem spots.
In July, city council slated for demolition a home at 1321 Pearson Ave. after the owner failed to deal with issues dating back more than eight years when a fire significantly damaged a portion of its basement. Trouble escalated at the spot over the last two years as transients moved in and RCMP brought the home to the city's attention.
At 1436 Monkley Ave. is a home with its exterior siding melted and blackened by fire damage. When Douglass and Anderson first came across the sight, they notified the city and the home has since been boarded up, the yard has been cleared of refuse and a shed where someone was squatting was nailed shut.
However, not much else has been done, and that has been a source of frustration for local RCMP.
"This has been vacant for some time," Douglass said. "Why is it just sitting here? I don't understand."
Almost every day, Anderson can be found touring the VLA and other areas in search of problem properties, often acting on tips from the public. At 1456 Milburn St., Anderson found his "next project," an occupied but messy half of a duplex where old mattresses and refuse were found dumped out on the driveway.
The tenants had been served an eviction notice, Anderson said, but the owner lives out of town and there has not been any follow through. Anderson said he will talk to city officials.
Others are not so obvious. A home at 2053 Oak St. where RCMP have executed three search warrants over three weeks looks relatively well-maintained from the outside.
Much like the criminals themselves, problem properties make up only a small percentage of the homes in the VLA, but are a source of most of the trouble.
"It's the few that give this area a bad reputation but most of the people here want the community to be safer and want us to contribute and help," Douglass said.