Neighbours assert petty thieves and drug dealers operating from trailers
The Pelham Neighbourhood Watch group on Facebook was abuzz recently, as residents reported thefts and drug trafficking around Highway 20 West and Effingham Street.
Niagara Regional Police spokesperson Jesse Vujasic told the Voice that an investigation of thefts around Hipwell’s Motel on the morning of Friday, December 11, led to the arrest of Donald Lush, age 45, of no fixed address. He is charged with seven counts of theft under $5000, and four counts of possession of property obtained by crime under $5000. Much of the stolen property was recovered by police.
Lush, who had outstanding warrants and appeared on the NRP’s online “wanted list,” was held in custody, and appeared in court on December 12, 2020.
The manager of Hipwell’s Motel told the Voice that Lush had been a registered guest at the motel for one night, and that the motel “does not generally allow long-term stays.” Kumud Patel said that even if customers pay in cash, they must present photo identification as a condition of registration. A sign at the front desk supported her comment.
A resident who answered the door at a home next to the motel identified herself as Mrs. Bond. She said that she had been victimized as well by the thefts that occurred late at night on Thursday, December 10, as thieves attempted to break into her husband’s garage. She has security cameras in place, and said that she called the police when she detected the intruders.
Bond’s husband, Norman, is in the hospital, having suffered a stroke several months ago. His prognosis is not good, said his wife. Norman’s son, Michael, previously lived with the couple.
The name Michael Bond will be familiar to many, as he is currently awaiting trial on a several charges related to driving the vehicle which collided with a pedestrian on Effingham Street last November, killing her.
According to both Bond and his stepmother, they have a stormy relationship. When her husband went into the hospital, Mrs. Bond demanded that Michael leave the property. The police were called to enforce her wishes. According to Mrs. Bond, individuals living in run-down trailers at the back of the property were friends of Michael’s, and she demanded that they depart as well.
Neighbours, who wish to remain unnamed for fear of reprisals, assert that Norman Bond owns the driveways adjacent to his property, which are access points for the remote, wooded area in the back.
One neighbour said, “We witnessed drug deals happening at the end of the drive, not far from where our kids were playing. It all started last April. There most definitely were people living back there. It was at its peak in July. They knew we had cameras…I called the cops on them a ton of times.”
Asked about drug deals being conducted on the property, NRP spokesperson Vujasic responded that due to privacy laws and the fact that no charges were laid, the NRP cannot speak to the issue.
The neighbours said that they had met with Norman Bond at least twice regarding their concerns.
“He was kind of fishing to see how much we knew about what was going on back there,” she said. “We told him, ‘We have cameras…we see everybody coming and going…we know what’s going on.’ The word on the street was that it was a big heroin and fentanyl operation.”
Two Canadian flags are still flying amidst the abandoned vehicles, an incongruity considering the decidedly illegal conduct neighbours allege was occurring.
“They marked the places of the drug rendezvous,” said a neighbour. “I have a video of two of the guys that used to live back there…they ended up being charged with a break-in at a Welland high school.”
Peter Criscione, a communications consultant with Niagara Region, said that he could not comment on police investigations, but noted that the Region’s Social Service Department did have its Assertive Street Outreach Team investigate the site in question recently, and “found no homeless persons present.”