For more than a year, neighbors have been complaining about suspected drug activity at 321 W. Fourth Plain Blvd. They've watched people come and go during all hours of the night and seen petty crimes, such as metal theft, increase in the area.
"This house has been pissing everybody off around there, and they think nothing is being done," said Detective Adam Millard during a morning briefing at the Vancouver Police Department's West Precinct. After piecing together enough evidence, he authored a search warrant of the residence in the Hough neighborhood.
The home is one of many in Vancouver considered a chronic problem house where neighbors constantly report suspicious activity. The problem first came to the attention of Cpl. Drue Russell, the neighborhood police officer assigned to that area. He approached the residents and the property owners about neighbors' complaints, but nothing was fixed. His file of complaints and code violations helped build the case for the search warrant.
He said he gets 500 to 1,000 emails each day about problem properties in his district, which covers the far west end of the city.
Thursday morning, a group of officers with the agency's Neighborhood Response Team served the warrant, with assistance from a corrections officer and code enforcement officer. The raid was considered high risk. Their target suspect, an alleged drug dealer who lived in the basement of the home, Donald B. Anglin, has an extensive criminal history.
Anglin, 56, was detained on the front lawn when police officers moved in on the residence.
"Police with a search warrant commanding entry. Anyone inside needs to come out now," Vancouver police announced several times before breaching the front door to the slate gray house. They also entered the basement with K-9 police officer Enzo. A woman came out of the basement.
Small bags of methamphetamine, along with pipes, a scale and packaging equipment, were seized during the search, police said. Anglin was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine with intent to deliver.
Code enforcement officer Randy Scrivner discovered that the residents were digging underneath the foundation of the house and piling the dirt on the side lawn, facing Fourth Plain.
Typically, Vancouver police serve warrants on about one chronic problem house each week. For the past couple of weeks, they've stepped up their efforts, and searched a second residence Thursday.
The search warrants have to be well planned and executed. Drug addicts, particularly those addicted to methamphetamine, can have a heightened sense of paranoia about police that makes the process more difficult.
Taking the time to fully develop a case about a problematic property can lead to multiple arrests or more significant charges for the offenders — as well as some peace of mind for the people who live there.
"It's very rewarding work because these people are desperate for relief," said Sgt. Jeff Kipp.
Ideally, if the drug business stops, the petty crimes that the business attracts will go away, too, Kipp said.
It's the kind of neighborhood problem that patrol officers don't have the time to pursue. But, it's also not a large-scale drug operation that would be tackled by the Clark-Vancouver Drug Task Force.
The Neighborhood Response Team is a kind of middle ground that, Kipp argues, gets at the root of crime in Vancouver.
Evidence that's recovered during the search can also lead police to drug suppliers, who may be the suspects for larger crimes handled by the task force. It's a way for crimes to work their way up through the agency's units.
Though it takes months to build a strong case, the officers aim to create long-term solutions. They get their best information from proactive neighbors who submit observations about the activities and people at chronic problem houses.
"We were waiting for this," said Gale Tracy, who lives across the street. After seeing the residents blowing leaves and chopping down trees late at night, she was wondering when the police were going to do something about the neighborhood nuisance.
"Just because you don't see results right away, doesn't mean we're not working on it," Kipp said.