Twelve million people visit Niagara Falls, Ont., each year, though not all of them are welcome guests.
In particular, there are the out-of-town drug dealers who have been coming in from the Greater Toronto Area lately.
This week, Niagara Regional Police said they had identified a trend in which an increasing number of Toronto-area drug dealers are travelling to the city, checking into motels in the tourist area and selling drugs.
Police say these individuals use false names and different vehicles to avoid being identified and attempt to leave town before they get caught. They then make return visits, starting the process over again.
The trend was highlighted by a recent bust that resulted in the arrest of six people, including an adult and 16-year old from Toronto, as well men from nearby Ajax and Richmond Hill. Thirty charges were laid and police found cash, crack cocaine and heroin in a local motel room.
Since July, police say they have laid dozens of charges and arrested 12 people with links to Toronto and its surrounding areas. They have also seized two handguns, nearly $10,000 cash and an estimated $58,000 worth of cocaine, heroin and marijuana from these individuals.
Some of the people arrested have been teenagers, while others are in their 20s.
Det.-Sgt. Dan Marr said the people involved in these activities have been selling to local drug users and also supplying some local street dealers.
In an email, Marr told CBC News that the incoming dealers "will stay a few weeks and then leave the area for a few weeks before returning."
Because they are from out of town, Marr said it is more difficult for police to identify the people involved, as compared to individuals who would be known to investigators in the area.
With lots to do in Niagara Falls, Marr said that potential drug dealers have lots of excuses to offer police.
"They would easily be able to explain that they are going to the casino or on vacation and sightseeing," he said.
Toronto police say the movement of local drug dealers into the Niagara region is not a new trend.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati also says the city has seen criminal groups try to “infiltrate” the city before.
"It doesn’t last too long," Diodati said, explaining by telephone that past problems have been quickly quashed.
Diodati said that Niagara Falls has "very little crime" for its high number of visitors, for which he credits a robust policing strategy.
"We try to take a proactive approach and keep it away," he said.
Marr said it is believed, however, that these GTA dealers are coming to Niagara Falls in a bid to expand their business and also to escape the pressures of police in the areas where they live.
But Diodati said these dealers are mistaken if they think they will be able to get a foothold in the community.
"They haven’t done their homework," he said.
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